The vast majority of my clients want copy editing. This includes editing for style, grammar, and consistency, and it can vary in intensity. Other clients want more involved editing of a text’s organization or style. This is known as structural editing, substantive editing, or line editing. Structural editing might include a sizable reduction in word count, changes to the prose style, or reorganization of sections, paragraphs, or sentences. Developmental editing is a bit more involved still. It’s appropriate for texts in progress, changes in a text’s approach, or major revisions of multiple aspects of a text.
Proofreading is quite literally checking the proofs to ensure a manuscript transferred smoothly through design to its final format. A proofreader catches typos, problems with layout and formatting, and stray grammar errors. During proofreading, changes are minimized to avoid creating new formatting issues.
There’s a good deal of overlap in these categories. Editors will often catch copy editing issues in a developmental edit, for instance. For most projects, however, 80 percent or more of the work falls comfortably into a single category. Each type of editing calls for a different approach, and it’s important to tackle larger editing issues before making more granular changes. You may not be certain exactly what kind of editing to ask for. That’s okay. Each project has its own particular needs and quirks, and when I work with individual clients, I like to begin with a conversation and work out the details together.