Editing: Types, Stages and What to Skip

editing visual Every writer needs an editor. And there are many stages of editing processes that can help.

A client once remarked to me that if someone were to edit her work, she would need to feel respected. Harsh edits are great as long as they’re purpose-driven.

I couldn’t agree more and can relate.

I remember my first job as a reporter a hundred years ago: An editor rewrote my entire article in her voice. I asked her to delete my byline and use hers. She was the worst editor I ever worked with. I strongly believe editors help writers become better communicators. But they should never change a writer’s voice and only adjust the tone when needed.

So, when working with client copy, I edit for content flow and accuracy, overall structure, correct grammar and spelling. Then I share a consistent style guide. (You can download my Word style guide template and customize it; read examples of some editing projects that I have done for my clients).

Every writer needs an editor. And there are many stages of the editing processes that can help you become a better writer. Share on X

Writers must find their voice while adhering to basic stylistic guidelines that are content-specific to their needs. I wouldn’t want any writer that I work with to sound the same and be interchangeable. That said, editing is part of content creation and design and shouldn’t be taken lightly.

Here are the various types and stages  of editing  processes (from the macro level to the nitty-gritty):

editing visualEvaluation & Developmental Editing (structural/organizational): Assessing the entire structure; overall flow and quality; the big picture view, including moving or deleting entire chapters; fleshing out characters and storyline

Content Editing (sections): Full content editing; smoothing content/theme/character flow and structure; moving/deleting entire sections and paragraphs

Line Editing (paragraphs/sentences): Substantive, detailed stylistic content edits (i.e., flawed cliché and metaphor usage, jargon); line-by-line reviews, focusing on each word and tightening sentences, structure and clarity

Copyediting (words): Meticulously combing through the copy for spelling/punctuation/grammar/clarity/accuracy issues that slipped through Line Editing; checking against style guides; assessing word choices

Proofreading (quality control): Reading through the finished, designed and formatted printed work (or just before going live with a webpage) for final review before publication/launch. The last defense against any errors. Includes layout issues, page numbering, consistency in formatting (headlines, subheads, captions, links), line breaks and more.

So, EVALUATION and DEVELOPMENT EDITORS build the house the writer wants to create. CONTENT EDITORS flesh out the room arrangement, add some rooms and tear down others. LINE EDITORS catch details and mistakes the content editor missed while working on each room. COPYEDITORS find the small errors that the line editors overlooked — and PROOFREADERS discover the minutia that even the best copyeditors passed over or inconsistencies introduced later in the publishing process after the writer has finished her work.

Thats the entire editing process. (I added a deliberate mistake in this post that a proofreader would catch immediately. Did you?)

Pro tip: If your budget or timeline is tight, you can skip the earliest editing stages, but I suggest you always devote ample time to copyediting and proofreading.

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Content Designer, Editor, Writer and Web Developer for content-rich websites with a global reach. Founder of Content+Design™ LLC. Helping you focus on your content to get your message out.

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