This is the most extensive form of editing that I offer. Developmental editing (aka structural or content editing) focuses on the big picture—the overall structure, organization, and flow of your text. I will point out items that need clarification, facts that might be inaccurate, and places where the text could be more succinct. The goal is to keep the reader interested, engaged, and turning the page forward. We don’t want them wasting time flipping through pages they’ve already read to clarify something about a character, setting, or statement. We want the text to be clear and concise, and, as your developmental editor, I will help with that. While I will make suggestions to enhance the flow and readability, I will make every effort to maintain your voice and style.
With works of fiction, during the developmental edit, I will assist with character development and let you know if your characters do something that seems inauthentic for how you’ve portrayed them. We want the story to develop in a logical and compelling manner, so I will also point out inconsistencies with the plot and its timeline, places where the narrative weakens or seems to drag along, and areas that could use more description to set the scene, convey action, or enhance the dialogue. If necessary, I will also make suggestions for increasing dramatic tension through conventions such as suspense, foreshadowing, conflict, and plot twists.
Note that there are different types of developmental editors: one type guides the author on how to outline and formulate a manuscript, almost like a writing coach; another helps the author rewrite a manuscript, for example to make it less scholarly and academic for a general audience, sort of like a ghostwriter; and the other works on manuscripts that are already written to offer comments and suggestions on how to improve the overall structure, organization, readability, and flow. I am the latter type of developmental editor.
During a developmental edit, a skilled editor may suggest hundreds of changes or revisions to a book-length manuscript. This is nothing to be alarmed at; it’s just part of the process of refining your manuscript and making it the best it can be. At this time, I may correct some grammar, spelling, and punctuation, but typically those items will be addressed during the copy editing stage. Again, the goal of the developmental edit is to focus on the big picture and how the manuscript is shaping up. Once that is solidified, we can move on to the copy editing stage.
Whereas developmental editing focuses on the big picture—the manuscript as a whole—copy editing looks at the text sentence by sentence and word by word.
Copy editing (sometimes referred to as line editing or stylistic editing) comes into play after you’ve solidified the plot, character development, and overall structure. Any lingering inconsistencies from the developmental edit will be addressed, but my main goal as your copy editor is to polish the words on the page—the spelling, grammar, sentence structure, punctuation, word choice, readability, and agreement
of tenses. I’ll let you know where certain words are repeated too frequently or too close to
each other. I’ll also point out inconsistencies in style, such as improper capitalization, spacing, or hyphenation.
“The most valuable of all talents is that of never using two words when one will do.”
In addition to reviewing your manuscript, I will also copy edit your front and back
matter and guide you on how to properly format your sources and bibliography.
After you’ve made the corrections pointed out during the copy editing stage,
your manuscript should be sent to a book designer for typesetting, layout, and
A proofread is strongly recommended because a lot of errors and issues with
formatting and style can crop up after you’ve made changes during the
developmental and copy editing stages and following typesetting, design,
cover design. Once the book is in layout, you’re ready for a final proofread.
Some people think that copy editing and proofreading are synonymous. Although the tasks share similar functions, they are two very distinct stages in the editorial process. In a nutshell, copy editing is completed prior to layout; proofreading is done after layout. Furthermore, electronic copy editing is typically performed in Microsoft Word while proofreading is completed using a PDF.
As noted in the copy editing section above, once a book is in layout, a final proofread is strongly recommended. During the typesetting and layout processes, errors, inconsistencies, and issues with formatting and style can crop up, and you don’t want those making their way into your finished product. Today’s readers are very savvy and are not shy about giving negative feedback on books (and their authors) when they find errors that should have been corrected before a book was published. After all the hard work you’ve put into your book, you owe it to yourself to have it professionally proofread.
Like the copy edit, a proofread is a sentence by sentence, word by word review of the text. But it’s also a “quality control” check and is typically the last chance to make corrections before the book gets published. So, in addition to performing one final read of the text to snuff out errors in spelling, grammar, sentence structure, punctuation, and the other items mentioned in the copy editing section, as your proofreader, I will look for formatting issues, such as bad line breaks, widows, orphans, and lines that are too short. I will also point out errors or inconsistencies regarding indentation, chapter titles, page numbers, headers, and subheads, as well as incorrect placement of images, tables, and other artwork and design elements. If requested, I will proofread and reconcile the front and back matter, including the table of contents, index, sources, and bibliography.
If you’d like to see some of the books I’ve worked on recently, check out my Portfolio.