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        The Difference Between Developmental Editing and Copyediting

        • calenderSep 11, 2022
        • calender 5 min read

        Enough has been said and written about the importance, struggles, and triumphs of editing a document.

        But how many people actually know and can tell the differences between various kinds of editing? Editing is a far more intricate process than simply correcting surface-level grammar errors. There are different categories, as well as levels of editing, all slightly varying from one another.

        Why should this matter to you though? If you have a document that needs to be edited and proofread, all you have to do is hire an editor right?

        No, your job isn’t just to drop your manuscript on an editor’s desk – because not all editors offer the services you’re looking for, and you run the risk of overpaying.

        So it’s important to understand the differences in levels of editing and ensure that you’re crystal clear about what you need for your document. Before you dive into that, make sure you know the differences between editing and proofreading first.

        What is editing? 

        Editing is a really broad umbrella term used to describe the process of refining any text for grammar and language errors. An editor usually checks any given document for punctuation errors, spelling mistakes, redundancies, and run-on sentences, among other things grammar and language.  

        However, as is the case with most large documents (such as dissertations, books, etc.), one can’t simply perform a cursory edit. Therefore, the editing process is divided into several steps (or levels) in order to simplify the process while also ticking off all the boxes.

        For the purpose of clarity, let us assume that the first level of editing is known as copyediting or line editing.

        Copyediting or line editing

        These terms, often used interchangeably, refer to fixing any mechanical errors in spelling, grammar, and punctuation. It’s essentially an overall review of your document and is the least expensive form of editing.

        Some editors do tend to divide copyediting and line editing into 2 processes for the sake of convenience or more accuracy. In such cases, copyediting suggests checking the document for

        • Wrong grammar
        • Inconsistencies (both factual and grammar-related)
        • Adherence to style and structure.

        Most copy editors tend to maintain style sheets, and this often overlaps with the process of proofreading anyway. Therefore, it’s better to simply opt for proofreading at the end and line editing in the middle.

        Line editing is the bridge between copyediting and developmental editing. It is a line-by-line intensive look at the entire document for language and structure. It seeks to improve the readability of the document by checking the writing style, creativity, and content. Line editing usually checks for

        • Run-on lines
        • Any overused words and sentences.
        • Redundancies
        • Unnatural jumps in tone and voice (includes plot for works of fiction). 
        • Bland language

        The final step of editing right before proofreading is known as developmental editing.  

        Developmental Editing

        As the name of the category suggests, developmental editing is a more in-depth look at the document as a whole. Although editors do check for clarity and structure at this stage as well, they also analyze the content.

        Therefore, what separates this from copyediting or line editing is the fact that editors may also suggest that you rework certain sections or choose to completely omit them. This, of course, is subject to the policies of every individual editor or editing service. However, they do provide valuable feedback for your content, and the editors at this stage are usually experts and knowledgeable in the field.

        Developmental or substantive editing is rather expensive, and must only be considered by people keen to have content-level feedback (such as authors and students preparing their thesis)

        Now that you’ve come to understand the different levels of editing, you can begin to imagine the kind of skill, time, and effort it’s going to take you to perfect your document. And then there’s proofreading to be done after that, which is a whole different area.

        So what do you do? Send in your document to PaperTrue, of course! Our editors would be happy to help you. We provide copyediting and line editing, as well as a version of developmental editing suited to your needs.

        P.S – The terms may vary slightly in publishing, and the above is just a general understanding of the same. You can always check with your editor beforehand.

        Found this article helpful?


        Manish Linkedin

        Manish is a serial entrepreneur, business coach, and the Founder of PaperTrue. His vision is to make impeccable English communication possible for everybody, so they can write effectively and gain the academic and professional success they deserve.

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