Editing Definitions


There are various levels of editing--and the industry uses different terms (sometimes for the same work), but my fee schedule is based loosely on the definitions as identified here: I shall try to make it as simple as possible with the reminder that there is often overlap between the distinctions, so communication between editor and author is necessary to delineate exact expectations.

Because most of my editing experience comes from the publishing side, we had a staff of readers and editors who passed material around and discussed it as a team. Much of the "editing definitions" delineations below did not exist, as we just worked with the author until the piece was acceptable. Some pieces needed one kind of edit, some another. So in my efforts to assist the lucky pauper, I am going to try to keep the fees simple and the communication open, but you need to understand the basis for them.

Developmental Editing (substantive, or comprehensive)

In substantive editing, the editor considers a document’s concept and intended use, content, organization, design, and style. The purpose is to make the document functional for its readers and intended venue, not just to make it correct and consistent.

Substantive editing is almost entirely "big picture" analysis-based. It can be an entire manuscript or at the paragraph, sentence, or word level. Decisions require judgment, not just the application of rules, and therefore should be negotiable with the writer.

It addresses coherence, logical presentation, aesthetic appearance, layout on the page, useful aids for reader (index, table of contents, etc.) Sometimes even cover art is discussed. It can also include "language" critique: how ideas are expressed, word choices, appropriateness of dialogue, vernacular, jargon, etc.

Copyediting Editing

Most copyediting is rules-based and addresses grammar, spelling, punctuation, and other mechanics of style and the internal consistency of facts and presentation. A good copyeditor will also be sure that sentences make sense. She will clarify ambiguity and poor wording, but she will only be heavy-handed when she has been asked to do so.

Proofreading (line editing)

To examine text looking for spelling errors, punctuation errors, typos and obvious errors, such as the unintentional use of "to" when it is clear the correct word is "two" or "too". (Also known as proofing or line editing)

In publishing, it is typically understood that a document which has been edited still needs to be proofed, as editing and proofing are truly not the same things. However, writers may expect an editor to wear both hats. Always clarify. Substantive editing rates are normally higher than proofing and copyediting.


Contact Me: bevjackson@gmail.com

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