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Which type of edit do you need?

As a journalism student, I believed my editor had one job: correct my grammar. Oh, naive Mikaela.

As a newly minted editor of a magazine, I learned a wider perspective. Editors decide good stories, correct grammar, and guide authors. But my perspective was still limited.

It wasn’t until I dove into the wide world of book publishing that I realized “editing a book” is not a simple task. It requires a team of people with diverse skills.

There’s developmental editing, proofreading, indexing, copyediting, and more. If you're writing an academic book aimed for publication, you'll definitely need a proofreader, if not also a copyeditor. If you're working on a term-heavy book, an indexer will come in handy. And no matter what book you're writing, a developmental editor can give you a huge leap ahead.

To make matters more confusing, every publishing house, freelancer, and editorial association defines them differently.

So what should you do? Which type of editor do you need and what service?

The good news is that realistically, you don't need all of those types of edits. You just need the right kind of editing for wherever you feel the most stuck with your book.

And, depending on your experience and writing skills, you likely only need one or two passes with an editor.

The Three Most Important Types of Edits

Below are the most common types of edits for a Christian living, memoir, or fiction book. Any of these edits--which I offer!--will polish and clarify your manuscript.

1.Developmental/Substantive Editing

This type of an edit looks at your manuscript from the highest level. We nail down your theme, takeaway, and audience to ensure you're heading in the right direction. I also give you feedback on your table of contents and ideas for other chapters to add or take out, depending on the topic.

If we were to use the analogy of a house, developmental editing is like the foundation of a house. It’s the big picture, broad structure that will keep the house together and structurally sound.

(This service is in beta-mode for me right now as I continue to learn the craft. If you’re interested, let me know if you want in on a discounted cost!)

2. Line Editing

Line editing is the next level down from developmental editing. This gets much more involved into your manuscript and helps you choose better words, tighten sentences, and smooth out paragraph transitions. I sometimes write or rewrite sentences or paragraphs if needed. (Don’t worry. I always use track changes so you can see every single change and accept or reject them before making them official.)

Continuing on the house analogy, line editing is like the sturdy walls that keep the house (and book) from caving in.

Here are a few examples of what a line edit would look like:

3. Copyediting

Copyediting checks for punctuatation, usage, grammar, and spelling (in other words, PUGS). Every editor varies on this, but I’ve chosen to lump copy editing and proofreading together.

If your document has already been formatted, I also verify that the formatting translated correctly. Your manuscript is thoroughly combed through to ensure it is as error-free as possible. This is the most basic form of editing possible.

Remembering our house analogy, copyediting is like the decorations in a house. It’s the final step to make everything look nice, cozy, and warm.

Here are a few examples of what a copy edit would look like:

Which should you choose?

If you have the budget and time margin, I’d suggest going with at least two edits. It never hurts to add more voices to your book, just make sure they’re the right ones. Although I love getting my hands into a manuscript, sometimes it can be helpful to have two editors look at it to catch anything the other might have missed. One could line edit while the other proofreads, etc.

If, however, you don’t have a large budget or want to hurry this book into the world, ask yourself these questions to determine which type of editing you’d need:

  1. Do you have an idea you need help translating into a book, including table of contents, chapters, and structure? Go with a developmental edit.

  2. Do you have a manuscript written and it’s gone through a few revisions from yourself but you're not wild about the flow of sentences? Go with a line edit.

  3. Are you a seasoned professional and feel comfortable with your sentences and structure? Go with a copyedit.

  4. Have you passed your manuscript through beta readers and they’ve helped you restructure it? Go with a copyedit.

  5. Have you written your rough draft and it feels like a mess and you don’t even know where to start to fix it? Go with a developmental edit or an extensive line edit.

Editing, when done correctly, blesses writers! It strengthens your writing, encouraging readers to stay way too late reading just one more chapter. If you still aren't sure what type of an edit you might need, visit my free sample edit page and I can help you out!


Hey, I'm Mikaela. 

I'm an editor and writing coach. 
Want to overcome the panic of a blank page? 
Discouraged by negative thoughts? 
Want to improve your writing? 
I'd LOVE to help you. 
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