What Type of Editing is Right for Me?

April 30, 2024

As a writer, the journey from drafting your manuscript to publishing it involves navigating the terrain of editing. Each editing type plays a crucial role in refining your work, but understanding which one aligns best with your needs can be daunting. You’ll often need more than one type during a manuscript’s revision journey… but you won’t necessarily need all of them. Let’s explore the main types of editing and how to discern which is right for you.

Developmental Editing

Developmental editing is concerned with shaping the overall framework of a manuscript. It goes deep into the foundational elements of storytelling, such as plot, character arcs, pacing, and thematic coherence. Developmental editors work with authors to refine these elements, providing feedback and suggestions to strengthen the narrative structure and ensure that the story resonates with the intended audience. This stage often involves extensive revisions and may require significant rewrites to address structural issues. This is equally important for memoirs, biographies, and story elements within nonfiction and self-help books.

  • Focus: Story structure, plot coherence, character development

Content Editing

Content editing takes a broader view of the manuscript, focusing on the overarching content and thematic elements. While developmental editing primarily deals with the storytelling mechanics, content editing considers the holistic impact of the narrative on the reader. Content editors assess the manuscript for consistency in tone, theme, and message, as well as the effectiveness of narrative pacing and structure. They may offer suggestions for restructuring scenes or chapters to improve flow and coherence, but their focus is less on the specific mechanics of storytelling and more on the overall impact of the narrative.

  • Focus: Overall structure, thematic coherence, pacing

Line Editing

Line editing involves polishing the prose of a manuscript at the sentence level. Line editors focus on improving the readability and coherence of the writing by refining language, enhancing clarity, and optimizing sentence structure. They pay attention to factors such as word choice, sentence rhythm, and overall stylistic consistency. Line editing aims to elevate the quality of the writing while preserving the author’s voice and intended tone. It often involves substantive revisions to individual sentences or paragraphs to enhance the overall flow and impact of the narrative.

  • Focus: Language clarity, style refinement, sentence flow

Copy Editing

Copy editing is primarily concerned with the technical aspects of writing, ensuring correctness, consistency, and adherence to style guidelines. Copy editors meticulously review the manuscript for grammatical errors, punctuation mistakes, spelling errors, and typographical inconsistencies. They also verify adherence to established style conventions, such as those outlined in style guides like the Chicago Manual of Style, American Psychological Association (APA), or the Modern Language Association (MLA). Copy editing aims to produce a polished and error-free manuscript that meets professional standards of writing and presentation. While copy editors may suggest minor revisions for clarity or consistency, their primary focus is on correcting mechanical errors and ensuring linguistic precision.

  • Focus: Grammar, punctuation, spelling, consistency


Proofreading is the final review of a manuscript before it is published or submitted for publication. The primary goal of proofreading is to identify and correct any remaining errors or inconsistencies in grammar, punctuation, spelling, and formatting. Proofreaders meticulously review the text line by line, comparing it against the final version to ensure accuracy and consistency. They also check for typographical errors, formatting inconsistencies, and any lingering mistakes that may have been overlooked during earlier stages of editing. Proofreading aims to produce a polished, error-free manuscript that is ready for publication.

  • Focus: Surface errors, typos, formatting consistency

Choosing Your Path

When determining the right type of editing for your manuscript, consider the stage of your writing journey and your specific needs:

  • Early Drafts: If you’re still shaping your story’s foundation, developmental editing can provide invaluable insights and guidance.
  • Refinement Phase: For manuscripts in need of language and style refinement, line editing offers the fine-tuning required to elevate your prose.
  • Polishing for Publication: Copy editing and proofreading are essential for manuscripts nearing publication, ensuring they are error-free and professional in presentation.

Finding the Right Editor

When seeking an editor, it’s essential to consider their expertise and experience. While some editors may excel in certain genres or styles, others may specialize in particular types of editing. For instance, children’s book editing often requires editors with a deep understanding of the genre’s unique requirements and audience expectations.

When considering hiring an editor for your project, you should ask questions to ensure that the editor’s skills, experience, and approach align with your needs and goals. Here are some questions you might consider asking:

  1. What is your editing experience?
  2. Have you worked on similar projects before?
  3. What is your editing process like? (Number of revisions, how revisions are shared, preferred format, etc)
  4. What specific types of editing do you offer?
  5. Can you provide samples of your previous work or references?
  6. What is your turnaround time for projects?
  7. How do you communicate with authors during the editing process?
  8. What are your rates and payment terms?
  9. How do you handle disagreements during the editing process?
  10. Do you also offer formatting? (just helpful to know if they can do that for you as well!

Avoid Rookie Mistakes

The editing journey is as vital as the writing process itself. By understanding the nuances of each editing type and aligning them with your manuscript’s needs, you can achieve a polished, professional, and impactful final product.

Many rookie authors skip this step or skimp on it in some way. Even as editors ourselves, we at Miramare Ponte Press always have our own work edited. Human brains are great at auto-correcting typos for the sake of understanding, not precision. Multiple eyes (and brains) on every manuscript reduces the amount of mistakes. We’re not so naive as to think our expertise and experience in editing others’ books will be satisfactory for our own… even editors need editors! How much more so non-editors?

Here are some other rookie mistakes that we see all the time and make us cringe (as readers and custom publishers):

  1. Assuming self-editing is sufficient: Some authors believe their writing is flawless and skip hiring an editor altogether, leading to overlooked errors, inconsistencies, and missed opportunities for improvement. *cringe*
  2. Hiring the cheapest editor available/Not investing in professional editing: While budget constraints are understandable, opting for the cheapest editor without considering their qualifications or experience may result in subpar editing quality or mismatched expectations. Unfortunately, we’ve had to re-edit books for authors who came to us for proofreading, but were so poorly edited we had to redo their content and/or copy editing. Oof.
  3. Rushing the editing process: Authors may underestimate the time and effort required for thorough editing, leading to rushed or incomplete edits that compromise the quality of the manuscript.
  4. Being overly resistant to feedback: Some authors may be overly protective of their work and resistant to editorial suggestions or changes, hindering the editing process and potentially missing opportunities for improvement.
  5. Not setting clear expectations: Failing to establish clear expectations, deadlines, and deliverables with the editor can lead to misunderstandings and dissatisfaction with the editing process and final outcome.
  6. Neglecting to review the edited manuscript: Authors may fail to review the edited manuscript thoroughly, assuming that the editor has caught all errors and made necessary improvements, which can result in overlooked issues or changes that are not aligned with the author’s vision. The final draft is your responsibility.
  7. Re-writing versus revising: Some authors continue to keep writing during the editing process. Unless your editor has asked you to write/rewrite, don’t… at least not without running it by your editor to be clear on any changes to the timeline and your cost.

Alright! That should give you a good start in this land of editing!

Find the right editor, avoid rookie mistakes, and make your book the best possible version it can be!

(P.S. Everyone who hires our custom publishing services gets editing included from two or more of our editing team members. Yep! Every book gets more than one editor because we want your book to be as close to perfect as possible! If you’re looking for a Done-with-You or Done-For-You publishing experience, book a free call with us to discuss the best fit for you!)

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *