What Type of Editing Does My Manuscript Need?

The world of editing can be a bit murky for the uninitiated. If you’re a writer and you are thinking of hiring an editor, it is helpful to get familiar with some of the core editorial services on offer. Depending on what stage your manuscript is at, you are going to need different things from your editor.

Here is a helpful breakdown of the four main types of editing.

1. Developmental Editing, also known as Structural Editing

Did you just set down your pen after writing “The end” on your manuscript? Are you filled with exhilaration, delirium, and relief that you DID IT? It’s time to throw yourself a little party, friend — that is no mean feat.

And then, it’s time for developmental editing.

First drafts are just that — first drafts. They are messy, glorious, and full of potential, but they usually need a fair bit of work before they transform into finished books. A developmental edit looks with a critical (and loving!) eye at your manuscript for big-picture storytelling elements. These include genre, plot, story structure, setting, worldbuilding, characterization, theme, and narrative voice.

Developmental editing does not consider spelling, grammar, or punctuation — because editing on a sentence level doesn’t make sense during this process, which involves a lot of rewriting, shuffling, adding, and deleting. Developmental editing instead considers how to hone your overall story and shape it into its strongest, most compelling form. This type of editing includes detailed feedback within the manuscript itself as well as a separate editorial report.

Many authors choose to work with an editor on a developmental edit before self-publishing or pitching their manuscript to an agent or publisher. An alternative option is known as a Manuscript Assessment, which provides general feedback in an editorial report only, and does not include in-manuscript comments.

2. Line Editing, also known as Stylistic Editing

Line editing comes after developmental editing. Once you are happy with the shape of your manuscript and the way its elements weave together to tell your story, it’s time to look at the work on a sentence level.

A line edit is a close read that considers such things as authorial and character voices, tone, mood, flow, and readability. It takes care to honour your authentic writing style while also thinking about the reader and the target audience.

Every author has unique strengths and weaknesses, and line editing helps you to identify yours, so that you can continue to polish your writing craft.

3. Copy Editing

A close cousin to line editing, copy editing often goes hand-in-hand with that service. Copy editing gets right down to the nitty-gritty of spelling, grammar, sentence structure, and punctuation. For non-fiction, copy editing also ensures adherence to chosen style conventions (such as APA style or Chicago style).

A good copy edit will stop readers from tripping over simple errors that pull them out of the story. Stylistic editing usually includes a copy edit; however, copy editing can be done solo, without being paired with a stylistic edit. Either way, copy editing is an essential part of the process, and not one to skip over.

4. Proofreading

The final step! Proofreading is sometimes confused with copy editing, but they are not the same thing. The proofreading process takes place AFTER the manuscript has been formatted for publication. This means you are looking not only at the text itself, but the way it is laid out on the page.

Proofreading often catches little errors that slipped through the cracks during the copy editing stage (it happens!). It also looks at the design and layout of the book to check for readability, accuracy, and adherence to design specifications. Proofreaders have eagle eyes, and your manuscript will be scrutinized with a fine-tooth comb. (That’s a good thing!)


There you have them: the four main types of editorial services. Now that you have a basic understanding of the different types and stages of editing, you can go forth into the editing realm confident in the knowledge of what you need from an editor.

If you aren’t sure which stage you are at, or feel like you land somewhere in between, feel free to reach out and ask for more info! We editors tend to be a friendly lot and are always happy to lend a hand in figuring out what your manuscript needs.

And always remember — as editors, we are here to champion your work and your vision and to make sure you are in love with your final draft.

Here’s to your story! 🥂

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Sources for gifs:
Ohio Barn Raising
Beyoncé – Why Don’t You Love Me
Brooklyn Nine-Nine
Spaceballs

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