Enough has been said and written on the importance, struggles and triumphs with 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 and ‘levels’ to 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, 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’s –

1) 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, run-on sentences and more.

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.


2) Copyediting or line editing

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

Some editors do tend to divide copyediting and line editing into 2 processes for the sake of convenience. 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 plot.
  • Bland language

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


3) 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 rewrite 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, 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.