Types of Editing 2.0

January 16, 2023

Close-up of a typewriter typing "rewrite... edit... rewrite... edit... rewrite." Photo by Suzy Hazelwood on Pexels.com.
Close-up of a typewriter typing “rewrite… edit… rewrite… edit… rewrite.”

Hey, folks!

Some of you might be wondering, didn’t she already do a post on types of editing?

I did. It’s archived now, because I’ve learned a fair bit more about my craft since posting it, and how I work within it. So we’re taking a stab at the subject, 2.0-style.

Depending on the editor you ask, where said editor works, and how they edit, you might get slightly different answers around the types of editing. To make things simple, I’m going to look at the four types you’re likely to come across, as well as apply them to my own offerings.

Shall we?

Developmental Editing

Developmental editing is commonly explained as the big-picture stage of editing. But what does that mean?

Basically, your editor will look at the foundation of the project itself. Does the story itself actually work?

So for something like a novel or a picture book, they’ll look at characters and their arcs; the narrative arc, and if it progresses logically; the tone of the work and if it’s the right one; info-dumping and telling rather than showing; the use of stereotypes and cliches; etc. Some of that will overlap with line editing and copy editing, but it’ll get dealt with here first.

Note how editors won’t correct for spelling and grammar (though they might adjust something glaring), or point out every instance you called your character’s eyes the wrong colour. But they will guide you in the right direction and make suggestions for how to get there.

Since I don’t developmentally edit stories, what does it look like for poetry?

I help clients strengthen the backbone of their work much like others do in fiction. I help them find a rhythm to their poem if it needs one, or point out if the one they added doesn’t quite work; I look at overarching imagery and how it can be pulled out (note that smaller elements of imagery are dealt with later!); I look at the structure of the poem’s stanzas and lines; and I work with them to make sense of any present narrative arc, just to give you an idea.

Line Editing

Line editing takes the process down in scope, but doesn’t yet arrive at corrections. Instead, it’s basically developmental editing for sentences. Do they flow into each other nicely? Are they in the right order? Can anything be strengthened to make it punchier or more vivid (ex. through word choice or imagery)? Can any lingering telling be made into showing?

Essentially, developmental editing makes the story itself stronger; line editing makes the way the story is told stronger.

It’s important to note that some editors, like myself, do line editing and copy editing at the same time. Others, however, offer them separately, and sometimes only offer one or the other.

Often, if someone says they line edit, they won’t copy edit; but if someone says they copy edit, they might simultaneously line edit (which is also common in traditional publishing settings). Always make sure you know what’s included in the deal when you hire someone for this stage!

Copy Editing

I’ve done a post on the four c’s of copy editing, but I’ll do a quick recap here:

Copy editing essentially entails correctness, clarity, conciseness, and consistency. This is the stage where editors make sure that what was done in line editing comes across properly for the readers. Are words and punctuation right? Are facts? Do the sentences read logically? Is there wordiness and repetition to deal with? Are numbers represented the same way throughout, and is a character’s hair colour consistent?

As I mentioned, this is often entwined with line editing. I personally find it easier to do both at for the same project, as things like clarity and conciseness go hand-in-hand for me with making lines flow smoothly. It just makes sense for me to do that plus correctness and consistency!

But again, not every copy editor follows my brain’s logic. Double check if they’re doing flow as well as corrections.


This is the final stage of edits, and is basically the broom that sweeps the room after copy editing has vacated it.

Proofreading is when an editor searches for any lingering (or even new) spelling and grammar errors; any glaring issues of fact or consistency (minor ones might be ignored, especially in a publishing house); and adjust any weird formatting, like bold type when there shouldn’t be any or changes to font sizes halfway through the manuscript.

Note that a proofreader isn’t necessarily a typesetter. Might some be? Sure. But many, including myself, aren’t. So while we can catch those formatting errors on a basic level like font size or paragraphs that break up unexpectedly, we won’t format the actual book for you.

Looking to Hire an Editor?

If you’re looking for an editor at any stage for poetry, or a copy editor (+line editor!) or proofreader for a picture book, I’d be happy to help you! Head over to my contact page to send me a message.

No matter where you are in your writing or editing journey, I’m over here cheering you on 😊

Published by Kaila Desjardins

Freelance editor, fiction writer, proud nerd.

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