Editing + Proofreading Work-from-Home Business

Understanding the 4 Types of Editing

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Did you know there are different types of editing? Depending on the type of work and the stage in the writing process, various levels of editing may be necessary to ensure a great finished product.

I categorize the editing process into four distinct types:

  • Developmental editing
  • Line editing
  • Copyediting
  • Proofreading

Each type of editing is valuable in a different way! Here’s what you need to know about the types of editing and their importance in the editing process.

Why You Need to Know the Difference Between the Types of Editing

As an editor, it’s your job to review the project before you give a client your rate and deadline. Why? Because only then can you determine if you have the skillset for the project, be able to charge appropriately, and give your client an accurate deadline.

For example, if a manuscript is riddled with confusing plot points and continuity errors, it’s going to need a lot more work than just fixing typos during a proofread. And if you’re a proofreader and not a developmental editor, you won’t be able to provide the service that’s needed.

Most clients don’t actually know what they need, so they’ll say “I just need a quick proofread” when they actually need something much more in depth, like a line edit. If you charge them for a proofread and you end up finding deeper issues, you’ll run into big problems. It doesn’t do much good to put a Band-Aid on a major problem!

Now that you know the importance of understanding the differences, here’s what you need to know about the four types of editing.

1) Developmental Editing: Helping the Story Along

Developmental editing helps to shape the narrative of a story. It’s not often necessary when writing shorter online pieces, but it’s crucial when writing a book.

As a developmental editor, you’ll provide feedback to the author on “big-picture” issues. This may include any of the following: character development/motivations, structure, plot, theme, pacing, and overall dialogue.

If you provide developmental editing, you’ll need to be comfortable with providing constructive criticism. You’ll need to point out the aspects that are working well and give feedback as to what needs improvement. You’ll also need to provide suggestions as to how the author can fix each issue.

Don’t spend time correcting the spelling and grammar at this stage! The draft will likely go through a few rewrites and several rounds of editing before it’s published, so correcting small errors is a waste of time. Focus on the big picture!

2) Line Editing: Maintaining Style

Once the plot, character development, structure, and theme are looking good, you can look deeper into the details. It’s time to refine the work with line editing!

Line editing, like developmental editing, focuses more on the creative content than on the mechanics. It’s sometimes called stylistic editing. Its purpose is to go deeper into the details by checking sentence structure, scene structure, voice, style, and flow.

As a line editor or stylistic editor, you’ll work with the author to help strengthen their prose by providing helpful suggestions. You may suggest using a different word, or recommend they make changes to improve the flow of the piece. In line editing, mechanics are not the top priority. You’ll leave those to later stages.

3) Copyediting: Fixing Errors

After the developmental and line editing are done, you can move on to the copyediting stage. In this type of editing, you’ll dive deep into the details! Copyeditors must check basic mechanics like typos, spelling, grammar, and punctuation, but the job doesn’t end there.

A good copyeditor can greatly improve a story by ensuring continuity throughout the work. They may look at things like timeline, character features, and anachronisms. They’ll make sure there’s no repetition or contradiction between different parts of the work.

There are some additional parts of the copyediting process you may want to clarify with an author before you provide them with a rate and deadline. Copyediting often includes fact-checking, which will likely require some research. It may also require flagging potential legal issues, such as copyright or libel. If the author expects you to do these things, make sure you have the time and budget to give them the necessary attention.

4) Proofreading: The Final Polish

Many clients seem to think editing and proofreading are synonymous, but if you’ve read up to this point, you know this isn’t the case at all! Proofreading is usually done at the end of multiple rounds of edits. It’s the final check for spelling and punctuation errors, typos, and formatting.

In the proofreading stage, you’ll be going through the piece with a fine-tooth comb and ensuring that no new errors were introduced during copyediting. You’ll need to be meticulous in finding errors and inconsistencies.

After proofreading, the author will review your markups and approve the final edits. At this point, the piece should be error-free and ready to publish!

Tailor Your Services to Your Clients’ Needs

Is there a certain type of editing that “speaks” to you more than the others? Do you love helping to develop plots, or are you more interested in the painstaking proofreading process? Or maybe you love all kinds of editing–that’s great, too!

The next time an author comes to you and asks for an edit, you’ll be able to figure out the type of edit they need. They’ll get exactly what they need to move their manuscript forward, and you’ll have a better idea of what to charge and when to set your deadlines. It’s a win-win situation for both you and your client!


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