If you’re confused about types of edits and editors, you’re not alone. It’s ironic that in a profession dedicated to clear communication,
the terms for what we do and when we do it are often unclear. Here’s how I describe them. Which and how many of these you need depends on your writing and your goals.
Types and stages of editing
Dev Editing (Developmental Editing) goes deep. It’s structural. It can create or change outlines, cut out whole sections or chapters, and identify gaps. If you have a great idea and a box of notes, a good dev editor can help you build a book from them. I dev edit short pieces, websites, and presentations, but not books. I can recommend someone to you.
Line Editing happens when the right pieces are in the right order, but perhaps not yet the right length. It’s about language and meaning, the structure of the paragraphs, not the whole book. It improves the quality of the writing and it, too, can go deep. I'm very good at this.
Copyediting focuses on finding mistakes or clumsiness in usage, grammar, and syntax. It makes things clear and clean. (Many clients who think they’re ready for copyediting need line editing too. I often combine them.)
Proofreading checks for typos and spelling errors, grammatical errors, misused words, inconsistencies in spacing and capitalizations, and other details that mark the difference between a professional and an unprofessional product.
Points of confusion
Dev editing and Line editing sometimes overlap. Line editing and Copyediting often overlap or merge. Proofreading and Copyediting also often overlap or merge. However, although a Line edit catches many errors, the close reading that a Line edit requires actually interferes with Proofreading. Line editing and Proofreading use two quite different approaches of the text.
Before you publish
Pre-print review: This is a careful check of the “ready to print” layout of the book, article, or website. The transition from manuscript to print layout can introduce new errors in spacing, dropped or crowded lines, widowed lines, etc. This is also when page numbers are finalized in the table of contents, references, index, end notes, etc. Finally, dressing the text in its party clothes can make overlooked errors stand out. This is the last chance to fix them.
Printer’s proof review: For printed books, this is a careful review of a printed copy before more copies are published. Its main purpose is to make sure the printed version looks exactly as it should.