How do you know which type of editing you need?
Many people think that editing is simply checking a written document for grammar and typos. Yes, this is part of what an editor does, but there are many more aspects to the editing process that need to be completed for a novel or document to be ready for printing.
Not only are there more aspects to editing than just checking spelling, there are several levels (or stages) of editing. The lines can be a little bit blurred between the levels, and different countries or organisations define them slightly differently, but at each stage, the editor focuses on different details until the manuscript is ‘clean’ and ready for printing.
When you are speaking to an editor about their services, make sure you know exactly what their service at each level will include. Don’t assume you are on the same page (so to speak).
Most editors are specialised in one or two levels of editing as there are different skill sets required for each level.
Developmental editing should be the first level of editing for a novel or non-fiction book. It is a professional writing support for the author and looks at the structure and flow of the whole storyline. Even authors who have written and published many books get a professional opinion on the structure of their novel.
Within developmental editing there are two levels: editorial letters and substantive editing.
Copy-editing is the next stage in the editing process. It takes the raw manuscript and makes it ready for publication. In short: copy-editing enhances the writing to ensure the target audience receives the intended message in the style that is required.
Copy-editing can include checking and correcting the following:
Copy-editing does not include extensive rewriting or restructuring, ghost writing, proofreading, text or cover design, indexing, research, copyright permissions or project management, though some copy-editors may provide these services.
Proofreading is ensuring that there are no errors that could detract from the published work, and that the work looks polished and professional.
Traditionally, it is the final step before publication after all other levels of editing have been completed. It is usually done as a final proof before printing once typesetting and designing have been completed. A proofreader will compare the final proof to the edited copy, check page numbers, table of contents, consistency of the style, omissions and additions in the typography, and page layout including widows and orphans, and check the content is complete. A proofreader will be one of the last people to sign off on the final proof before printing so it is important that they are accurate.
Many editors provide a proofreading service that is somewhere between copy-editing and proofreading. This is especially useful for organisations that need to print material quickly and don’t want to hire several different editors. Each editor will have their own list of what they include in a proofread, so it is important to check and ensure you know what the service involves.
For my clients, proofreading includes checking and correcting the following:
What if you are still unsure?
If you are unsure of the level of editing your manuscript requires, speak to an editor and they will be able to advise you.
Marja Stack is a proofreader and copy-editor based in New Zealand. Her business, Clearlingo Proofreading and Editing, caters to all writers, whether business, fiction or non-fiction. For more information or enquiries please see her website: www.clearlingo.co.nz.
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