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. So an editor also ensures that your manuscript is consistent in storyline, logic, and its structure as such.

Levels of Editing

Copy editing

This is the first round of editing generally undertaken by an editor. A copyeditor takes care of, in addition to grammar and punctuation, a writer’s stylistic requirements.

Substantive editing 

This is the process of an editor delving in-depth into the text – chapter by chapter, scene by scene  – to make sure that the prose is tightly-knit and well written.

Developmental editing 

Developmental editing cares more about large-level concerns like structuring.


Proofreading is the final step of refining a document. Once you have implemented your editor’s changes, once you are confident with what you’ve written. Your editor will do one last round of grammar, punctuation and spell-check.

But how does developmental editing help your novel in particular? Let’s see:

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. 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 editing is when editors check for major inconsistencies in your work. These could be gaping plot holes, inconsistent storylines, and character development issues. This type of editing is essential to help the writer envision their story in a much better way and give depth to their characters.

It usually focuses on feedback about the story, plot, characters and other important elements in the book by the editor. Only after the writer works on improving these, can the process can go further. The developmental editor does the job of adding a little color to the pale cheeks that is the unedited manuscript.