How much editing do you need

How much editing does your content need?

When figuring out how to lift your content to its highest state, editors generally think in terms of four levels of edits. From heaviest work to lightest, the levels are: 

  • Developmental edit
  • Substantive (or comprehensive) edit
  • Copyedit
  • Proofreading

As a developmental editor, I help plan your content or recommend structural changes and content additions/deletions that will bring the work in line with project goals, audience requirements, and your objectives.

As a substantive editor, I act as “first reader,” recommending (and sometimes making) changes to increase readability and usability. I ask questions readers might ask and raise objections readers might raise. I question holes in logic, ask for evidence and examples to support claims, and recommend illustrations and charts. I also recommend section breaks, headings, subheadings, and visual design elements that will make sense to--and make the reading easier for--your readers.​

As copy editor, wielding my red pen and your chosen style manual, I hunt down grammar, punctuation, and spelling errors by moving through your text line by line, word by word. This work usually requires a few passes through the text as I hone in closer and closer to the desired state, making sure that terms, abbreviations, hyphenation, labels, use of numbers, and reference styles are consistent, and that dates, references, quotations, links, calculations, and other quantitative data are accurate. Finally, before turning the edited text back to you, I make sure all parts are present, accounted for, and leading readers to the right places: Tables of contents, illustrations, tables, sources, and links, for example.

As proofreader, I use various proofreading techniques to look for errors in a designed version of your document--errors that you, I, or someone else might have missed during the copy-editing phase. Proofreading is the penultimate step before publication--and our last chance to catch glaring and even subtle errors.

Click the image below for a PDF version of the Levels of Edit.

Proofreading, copyediting, substantive editing, development editing: What's the difference?
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