Not all edits are created equal. There are many types of edits, ranging from intensive to cosmetic. If you’re not sure which edit would be best for you, feel free to email your manuscript to us for an appraisal: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Here are the four types of editing you’ll encounter as a professional writer, from most structural to most superficial:
A developmental edit involves the bare bones of your story; your narrative arc, scenes, character growth, tension, and pacing – the basic building blocks of storytelling. In a nonfiction manuscript, this would involve brainstorming the most logical and compelling way to divide and present your material, and coming up with a comprehensive outline much like a book proposal.
Your developmental edit is finished just when your story is really beginning.
Unlike a developmental edit, which addresses your story line or book as a whole, line edits are concerned with your writing line by line and page by page. It concerns itself with your literary flair and panache; your command of the language.
A line edit will identify jumbled syntax, repeated or unnecessary words, clichés, confusing speech tags and pronouns, and suggest clarifications for muddled passages.
Sometimes a line edit isn’t necessary; for instance, writers of how-to books, business manuals, or cookbooks probably won’t be interested in making readers swoon with their poetic prose. Those types of manuscripts only require copyedits and proofreading.
Copy edits are turbo proofreads. Copy editors aren’t concerned with your narrative arc (developmental edit) or the potency of your prose (line edit). They aren’t as concerned with the beauty of your writing as they are with its consistency and conformity to industry standards.
Copy editors correct punctuation, spelling, and grammar (much like a line editor) but also keep an eye on your internal consistency; is your usage of numbers and italics consistent from start to finish? Do you use “and” in some places, but “&” in others?
It’s a copy editor’s job to make sure a character has the same accent all the way through your novel, for instance, or that his dog’s name is spelled the same throughout. A copy editor will also make sure that the manuscript adheres to American or British English, not an inadvertent mix of the two.
A copy edit, then, is part line edit, part proofread, and part fact-check.
Proofreading is the last step before publication. It involves a superficial scan of your work to weed out the occasional typo. Proofreading is the least expensive edit because most of the heavy work has already been done.
When you ask a friend to edit your manuscript or pay $500 for a cheap editing job, this is usually what you’re getting, even if your manuscript is in desperate need of a developmental or line edit.
For a comprehensive and honest overview of your manuscript’s structural strengths and weaknesses, you might want to have a look at our popular manuscript evaluation service.