What’s the difference between the levels of editing?

All the different editing stages can get confusing. So, here’s a breakdown:

Developmental Editing

This focuses on your book’s big picture, including:

  • Chapter organization
  • Characterization
  • Dialogue
  • Ending
  • Inconsistencies
  • Pacing
  • Plot holes
  • POV
  • Structure
  • Themes
  • Voice

Since this stage helps bigger items, it doesn’t usually do much sentence-level wise. Instead, it helps develop your story, making sure it’s solid and coherent. The editor will mark every page, whether it’s to ask questions, cross out sentences, say what works, etc.

This is also known as a structural edit. This stage usually after beta readers.

A manuscript critique is similar to developmental editing but not as intense. It’s more for manuscripts that are newer and might need a rewrite. Usually, no feedback is on your manuscript. Instead, you get a detailed letter, that spans about five to ten pages long, with some helpful information about how to improve your work.

Copyediting

This focuses on the overall sentence level, including:

  • Clarity
  • Conscious language
  • Dialogue tags
  • Flow
  • Inconsistencies
  • POV
  • Readability
  • Repetition
  • Telling vs showing
  • Voice

It also focuses on:

  • Grammar
  • Punctuation
  • Spelling
  • Tenses

Sometimes, however, this term differs in the field. Some people call this line editing and mean the same thing. Some say that only what I mentioned in the first part is line editing while everything in the second part is copyediting.

For me, I use copyediting and line editing as synonyms. When I copyedit, I go over everything from clarity to grammar to flow, etc. If I see something that can benefit from an edit, I’m going to point it out to help your story grow.

There is also the distinction between light copyediting, medium copyediting, and heavy copyediting. All three versions ensure consistency and correct grammatical errors. The main differences are:

Light Copyediting

  • Note paragraphs that might seem too wordy
  • Query any inconsistencies or possible false statements

Medium Copyediting

  • Note paragraphs that might seem too wordy and give suggestions
  • Query any inconsistencies
  • Fact-check and query any possible false statements

Heavy Copyediting

  • Rewrite any wordy paragraphs
  • Query any inconsistencies and gaps in logic
  • Fact-check and revise any possible false statements

When I edit, I usually do a medium copyedit unless discussed otherwise.

Proofreading

This focuses on quality control, including:

  • Grammar
  • Punctuation
  • Spelling

It can seem similar to copyediting, but it is the last line of defense before your book gets published. A proofreader is the last editor to make sure no glaring errors are in your book.

This stage is useful since we’ve all seen books that have an obvious grammar mistake and sigh. Proofreaders make sure readers don’t have to spot those easy, avoidable mistakes.

Hope this helps! If you have any questions, leave a comment down below!


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