Developmental editing requires a degree of partnership between author and editor (and oftentimes publisher). Because the purpose of a developmental editor is to work closely with the author during the writing process to ensure that the author’s vision for the book is materializing, this type of editing is unique to each situation and author/editor relationship. I like to think of it as one part project manager, one part writing coach, and one part editor. Developmental editors should not rewrite content for the author, but be able to recognize when a book project is running off the rails and may need the intervention of a ghostwriter.
This type of comprehensive editing is very thorough and results in a detailed critique of the manuscript, including discussion of the structure and organization, writing style and author’s voice, points of confusion or areas needing more development or support, and notes on mechanics.
For creative works, I also consider the standard elements of each genre, such as plot and character development, point of view, dialogue, imagery, figurative language, theme, word choices, line breaks, rhythm, meaning, etc. My pen is also gilded in poetry, fiction and creative nonfiction.
Has the author communicated the intended message of the manuscript through the chosen language on the page? A line edit examines the work at the level of words, sentences and paragraphs in order to make sure the language is clear, tone is consistent, content is engaging, pacing is appropriate, etc. This type of editing is focused on content and creativity to help the writer improve his or her project and craft.
When the piece of writing is complete and revisions from the line edit have been applied, copy editing focuses on the technical aspects. Errors in spelling, grammar, punctuation, syntax, capitalization, style guidelines, usage, etc. will be sought out for correction. Copy editing also catches inconsistencies in the content, such as facts in nonfiction, and descriptions important to the plot or characters.
Primarily used for scholarly works, such as academic papers and scientific reports, this type of editing is often done while copy editing. It ensures that the piece of writing conforms to the designated style guidelines. Much of style editing involves checking citations and their formatting.
Most undergraduate essays must adhere to the guidelines of the Modern Language Association (MLA) for the humanities, and the American Psychological Association (APA) for the social sciences. The Chicago Manual of Style or Turabian is commonly used by writers of books, magazines, and other non-scholarly works. Many publications, especially newspapers, have their own style guides.
This is the “quick once-over” check for typos, misspellings, grammar and punctuation issues, extra spaces and any other “oops” material hiding in the manuscript. If only your eyes have seen the greatness of your masterpiece, please please please, at least send it for proofreading by a second set of eyes (no, not you with your sunglasses on) before submitting it for publication. I don’t care how many times you’ve read through it with your monocle. Trust me. After you click send or drop the envelope in the mailbox, you WILL find a blatant error. Get a proofread! You’ll thank me for this bit of advice.