The 4 types of editing, and which one is right for you

The 4 types of editing, and which one is right for you

If you’ve been researching editing and editors, you’ll know by now that there’s a wide range of services on offer. So how do you know what you’re going to get, and whether you'll get your money’s worth?

Read on to learn about the different types of editing, and which you need.

Disclaimer: Before we get started, note that editors often use the terms below interchangeably, they might just say ‘editing’, or they might offer some bits and pieces from each of the different categories. This is why it’s important to ask about what’s included in the package you’re considering. Better yet, ask for a sample edit – then you’ll know exactly what you’re getting for your money.

Types of Editing

Editing type 1: Developmental editing

A developmental edit looks at the overall structure and content of your book at the changes you can make to improve it.

Note that, depending on the editor, a developmental edit might not involve much actual editing. That means no corrections to your spelling and grammar, no reorganizing or cutting your content, and no rewriting awkward passages. Instead, a developmental edit focuses on giving you feedback so you can make the changes.

At Grammar Factory, we’ll go through a book and put together a 5,000- to 10,000-word report on it, covering:

  • General feedback: What you did well, and any recurring issues observed through the book.
  • Content feedback: Content issues recurring throughout the book, such as repetition, rambling, irrelevant content, or not enough content or depth.
  • Structural feedback: What worked and didn’t work about your structure, and what structure we recommend to achieve your goals for you and your reader.
  • Book outline: An outline of the structure we recommend, based on your existing content, including a list of chapters, a description of each chapter, the subtopics to go in that chapter and where we think you’ll find the content in your current draft (or if you need to add new content).

Then we hand the report over so you can make the changes.

If you’re like most of our clients, that won’t be very appealing. After all, you’ve just spent weeks or months writing your book, and now we’re asking you to rewrite it? Isn’t there some way we could do it for you?

Fortunately, that's where structural editing comes in.

Editing type 2: Structural editing

A structural edit also looks at the overall structure and content of your book but, unlike a developmental edit, here the editor makes the changes for you. This means that a structural edit considers all your objectives as an author:

  • Your ideal readers
  • How you want to position yourself as an expert
  • How you want to promote your book
  • What you want the book to achieve
  • And more

The editor then restructures your entire book to fit your vision. This might involve cutting back content (we cut as much 50% of the drafts we look at, but 15-25% is more typical), creating a new structure, and making recommendations about new content that you can add.

Essentially, a structural edit makes your book as effective as it can be for both your readers and your brand.

What’s included in a structural edit?*

  • Pre-edit consultation with your editor to ensure they’re clear on your goals for the book
  • Reviewing the entire structure of your book based on those goals
  • Ensuring that your tone is consistent throughout the manuscript
  • Reworking areas of your manuscript to improve the clarity, flow and structure or your book’s argument
  • Removing unnecessary or repetitive text
  • Making recommendations on how you can create a more compelling argument by adding evidence and examples, extending certain areas, creating more clarity, etc.
  • Correcting all of your spelling, grammar, punctuation, and typos
  • Explanation of all changes, with the opportunity to discuss them live

If this is your first book, or you haven’t gotten a lot of feedback yet, then it’s best to start with a structural edit. You’ll be surprised by some of the suggestions and equally surprised at how much more smoothly your book flows once an editor has reviewed it.

Editing type 3: Copyediting

A copyedit (also known as a line edit) focuses on your book’s readability, and ensures your writing flows smoothly and makes sense to your readers.

While a structural edit looks at the book as a whole, a copyedit looks at paragraphs and sentences and at correcting your spelling and grammar. This means that, while individual paragraphs may be restructured and reworked to improve readability, a copyedit won’t look at the structure of the entire book.

What’s included in a copyedit?*

  • Reviewing your book for readability and flow, and reworking sentences and paragraphs for clarity
  • Correcting your spelling, grammar and punctuation
  • Correcting your typos
  • Improving sentence structure for flow, persuasiveness and consistency

If you’re an experienced writer (e.g., this is your second or third book, or you’ve been working as a professional writer for a number of years), and/or you've worked one-on-one with a good writing coach, you may be able to go straight to a copyedit. However, consider requesting a sample edit when you get a quote, so your editor can make a professional recommendation about the best type of editing for your book.

Editing type 4: Proofreading

Proofreading only focuses on your spelling, grammar, punctuation, typos and consistency. A proofread is like a more accurate version of spell check (and believe me – you want a more accurate version of spell check).

What’s included in a proofread?*

  • Correcting all of your spelling, grammar and punctuation
  • Correcting all of your typos
  • Reviewing your text for consistency

So if you’re looking for editing that focuses on spelling, grammar, and punctuation, a proofread can help.

However, most writers can’t send their manuscript directly to a proofreader as, although they’ll check your grammar, they won’t look at your book’s readability or structure. And – as I’m sure you’ve experienced from looking at some instruction manuals – just because something is grammatically correct, doesn’t mean it makes sense.

For the most part, I recommend you start with a structural edit, and then progress to a copyedit or proofread.

* Note that packages vary from editor to editor. Make sure you know exactly what you’re getting before you agree to work with anyone.