What Type Of Editing Do I Need?



Once you have finished your manuscript you are going to want to have a professional editor take a look at it before you take it much further. I have seen many new authors posting in the Facebook writing groups asking what type of editing do I need or what are the differences between the different types of editing? I would like to explain it to everyone so there is no confusion.


The Four Main Types of Editing.

Substantive (developmental) editing.

This is the most intensive type of editing. Your editor will review your manuscript as a whole, evaluating structure, organization, coherence, and logical consistency. This means your editor may suggest rewriting parts or reorganizing the structure of your plot. Changing, adding or dropping characters. Making sure you have given enough information early enough so the reader can understand what is going on later in the story. The editor will also make sure nothing conflicts with other facts in the story such as names or dates and times of when events happened.  Grammar and spelling are not scrutinized much, but that won’t stop many good editors from pointing out common misspellings or punctuation.

Copy editing.

This type of editing will not evaluate the developmental structure of your plot like a substantive edit will but it will track and note discrepancies. Copy editing looks for grammar, spelling, style, repetition, word usage, and jargon.


Proofreading is the lightest form of editing. Only minor errors are corrected. Minor errors usually include:

  • grammar and style (e.g., verb tense, units such as ml, use of numerals and words such as “5” or “five”)
  • capitalization, punctuation (e.g., the use of commas, semicolons, colons, periods, dashes, apostrophes)
  • spelling and word usage (e.g., to/too, affect/effect)


Differences Between Line and Copy Editing

Ok so also see line editing mentioned, What is that?

Heres where there is some overlap. It really depends on the editor some consider a line edit to be an expanded form of proofreading and copy editing a slimmed down version of a substantive edit. Let me try to clear this up.

Line Editing.

A line edit focuses on writing style, content, and language on a line or paragraph level. The purpose of a line is not to comb through your work for errors but to evaluate the way you use language to convey the story to the reader. Is the language clear, fluid and pleasurable to read?

An editor may draw your attention to:

  • Run-on sentences.
  • Words or sentences that are extraneous or overused.
  • Redundancies from repeating the same information in different ways.
  • Dialogue or paragraphs that can be tightened.
  • Scenes where the action is confusing or the author’s meaning is unclear due to bad transitions.
  • Passages that don’t read well due to bland language use.
  • Tonal shifts and unnatural phrasing.
  • Confusing narrative digressions.
  • Changes that can be made to improve the pacing of a passage.
  • The need for certain words or phrases that may clarify or enhance your meaning.


Copy Editing.

  • Corrects spelling, grammar, punctuation, and syntax
  • Ensures consistency in spelling, hyphenation, numerals, fonts, and capitalization
  • Flags ambiguous or factually incorrect statements (especially important for non-fiction)
  • Tracks macro concerns like internal consistency.

An example of internal consistency:  Say early on in the book a character dies. It wouldn’t make much sense if suddenly that same character was at a party that happened after his or her death. Or at one point you describe someone’s eyes as “sparkling blue” then on page 256 they are “deep brown like a good cup of coffee”.

“There is one other reason that line editing and copyediting aren’t the same job: copyediting should always come after line edit, never at the same time or before. The page-by-page, sentence-by-sentence content of your manuscript should be completely finalized before being fine-tuned on the level of a copyedit. Because what is the point of spending time (and money) proofreading portions of an early draft that might be significantly altered, or even completely cut, by the time the final draft rolls around?”  – nybookeditors.com


I understand the confusion a lot of new authors are having. Trust me I have been confused about it as well. I still to this have to go back and check the difference sometimes. Here’s the thing I can’t tell you that your plot is a mess and you need a substantive edit or if you can get away with just a proofread and a file copy edit without reading the manuscript. But I will tell unless your story is very short or you are a very experienced writer a single round of editing is usually not enough. I have paid thousands for a general edit expecting a perfect final copy, boy was I wrong. As a new author, you have to know what you are paying for when you hire an editor. Make sure it is clear what the editor will be looking for and what they will or will not fix.

I hope this helps everyone understand the editing process a little better, there are many more examples that can be found doing a search “editing examples” showing what was changed after different types of editors have reviewed the text.

As always good luck and happy writing!


JourStarr Quality Publications does not offer editing services to self-publishers. We do however offer many other services to the self-publishing community. Visit JourStarr Self Publishing Services for more information.