About Editing

The Editing Process

How can you get the most from working with an editor? Let’s take a quick look at the editing process.

Before a written piece is published, it goes through editing and revision in separate stages. A developmental editor may come in at the very beginning—at the initial concept or the first draft. At the very end, before publication, the proofreader makes sure the final text is error free. Editors and proofreaders specialize in the tasks that are needed for each stage of a project and use the categories below to describe what they do.

Developmental Editing

Developmental editors work with writers at the beginning stage of a project, perhaps on the initial concept, the first draft, or even before the writing begins. The developmental editor’s tasks:

  • Write or rewrite text
  • Help with organization
  • Identify gaps
  • Suggest additional content
  • Do research
  • Ensure logical structure
Substantive Editing

After the full text is complete, it’s ready for substantive editing. The substantive editor’s tasks:

  • Prepare a style sheet
  • Suggest ways to improve readability, clarity, or accuracy by reorganizing or rewriting
  • Identify inconsistent terms
  • Help target the language to the desired audience
  • Flag jargon
  • Make sure the ideas flow logically
  • Help take the text to its final form

When the text is in final or nearly final form, the copyeditor’s tasks include these:

  • Correct faulty spelling, grammar, and punctuation
  • Correct incorrect usage
  • Make sure the text and headings have parallel structure
  • Flag inappropriate figures of speech
  • Ensure that key terms are consistent
  • Query ambiguous or incorrect statements
  • Check cross-references in tables and illustrations
  • Ensure consistent spelling, hyphenation, numerals, fonts, and capitalization
  • Check for proper sequencing (such as alphabetical order) in lists
  • Preserve the author’s voice and meaning

The last stage is proofreading. Final proofreading is done after the manuscript has been designed and the photos and illustrations are in place. The proofreader’s tasks:

  • Check for misspellings, typos, misnumbering or mislabeling, subject-verb agreement, correct word usage
  • Identify incorrect cross-references
  • Flag missing copy
  • Check for incorrect word breaks
  • Correct errors overlooked during copyediting or introduced in the design process
  • Ensure that earlier corrections were made
  • Check heading and typeface styles, font sizes, page numbers, and other design elements
Additional Information

Working with an Editor
Northwest Independent Editors Guild

Editorial Services Guide
Bay Area Editors’ Forum