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What Type Of Editing Is Right For You? Understanding The Editorial Stages

It’s no surprise that the most common enquiry I receive is to proofread someone’s work: most people think proofreading covers every element of editing. At university, friends used to ‘proofread’ each other’s essays, and even now I hear of authors sending their manuscripts to be ‘proofread’ by a friend. But, often, they need a more comprehensive edit.

Editing is actually split across a variety of different stages to ensure that every element of a project is properly reviewed and refined. The three main stages are:

Structural editing

Copy editing


You’ll get the most value from your editor if you know what your project needs and what to ask for. Each editorial stage focuses on different elements of the text. Books, in particular, will undergo the following process:


Also known as developmental editing, this is the first stage of editing that occurs once the author has submitted their completed manuscript. This is mainly concerned with things like structure, themes, characterisation and character arcs, tone of voice, and narrative viewpoint. A structural editor will work collaboratively with the author to ensure the foundations of their novel are solid and compelling. This is key to shaping and plotting the story.


Also known as line editing, this takes place once the author has reviewed the notes and suggestions from their structural editor and has revised their manuscript. A copy editor will then look at the text in closer detail, examining the story line by line to nurture the novel’s style and ensure it’s consistent. If a character has a scar on their left leg at the start of the book but is described later with a scar on their right leg, a copy editor will flag this. Copy editors review the author’s syntax and style of writing, identifying the authorial style and applying this to the whole manuscript, and also check for spelling, grammar, and punctuation. This stage helps to refine the story and ensure it remains logical and immersive throughout.


This takes place after the manuscript has been revised, edited and designed. A proofreader is in charge of quality control and is the very last person to alter a book before it is printed and bound. They are strictly concerned with correcting errors such as spelling, grammar, and punctuation. These errors could have been introduced accidentally during revisions of the manuscript or during the design and typesetting process – or they may have been missed altogether during the previous editorial stages. A proofreader also checks the formatting and layout of a book are consistent and free of errors – this means reviewing the line spacing, header styles, footnote style and chronology, indentation, and much more. The proofreading stage is the final check to ensure the novel is print-perfect.


Now you have a better understanding of what each editorial stage entails, it’s time to decide what kind of editing you need. If you’re writing a book, I’d highly recommend all three editorial stages. It’s also important to follow the above order – there’s no point in having your manuscript proofread if there are still issues with the structure or inconsistencies in the text that could’ve been fixed during the earlier editing stages.

If you’re not writing a book, you probably don’t need all three editorial stages. A lot of bloggers and businesses opt for a copy edit and proofread, or just a proofread. You should also consider whether you’re ready to hire an editor. Make sure that you’re taking care with your work to clean up as many issues as you can before submitting it to an editor: this allows them to focus on the more complex edits rather than fixing simple issues.

If you have a project that is ready to be edited, why not find out how I can help you?


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