Which type of editing do you need? The 4 editing types, and which is right for you

Which type of editing do I need?

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 that’s going to be your money’s worth?

Read on for the different types of editing, and which one 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 them 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.

Editing type 1: Developmental editing

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

Note that, depending on the editor, a developmental edit might not involve much actual editing. So that means no corrections to your spelling and grammar, no reorganising 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 5,000-10,000 report on it, covering:

  • General feedback: What you did well, and any recurring issues through the book.
  • Content feedback: Recurring content issues throughout the book, such as repetition, rambling, irrelevant content, or not enough content/depth.
  • Structural feedback: What worked/didn’t work about your structure, and what we recommend.
  • Book outline: The book outline is an outline of the structure we recommend, based on your existing content. This will include a list of chapters, an explanation of the subject 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 do it all!

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?

This is where structural editing comes in.

Editing type 2: Structural editing

A structural edit also looks at the overall structure and content of your book as well but, unlike in a developmental edit, here the editor should be making the changes for you. This means that a structural edit takes:

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

into consideration, then restructures your entire book to fit that vision. This might involve cutting back content (we cut as much 50% of the drafts we look at, but 25-30% 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?*

  • Phone consultations with, or a questionnaire from, 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 through adding evidence and examples, extending certain areas, creating more clarity, etc.
  • Correcting all of your spelling, grammar and typos
  • An explanation of all changes, and the opportunity to discuss any of the changes

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 probably be surprised by some of the suggestions, as well as surprised at how much more smoothly your book flows once an editor has reviewed it as a whole.

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 correcting your spelling and grammar. This means that, while individual paragraphs may be restructured and reworked to improve the 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 (so this is your second or third book, or you’ve been working as a professional writer for a number of years), and/or your manuscript has been reviewed by a selection of your ideal readers and industry experts for structural considerations, you may be able to go straight to a copyedit. However, it’s always best to request a sample edit whenever you get an editing quote, so then 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. Essentially 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

So if you’re looking for editing that focuses on spelling and grammar, a proofreader 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’d start with a structural edit, and then progress to a copyedit or proofread.

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

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