Editing is the art and craft of refining a text to make it more well-written, well rounded, and easy-to-comprehend.  Just like editing a film or a photograph, reviewing a literary text can be a long, intensive process. There are many types of editors (based on the text) and different stages of the whole process. We have written about each of these extensively in other articles (check the Editing and Proofreading category of this archive), but this one aims to give you a comprehensive overview of the answer to the million-dollar question of what editing means in the first place

What can a literary editor work with?

  1. Full length books (fiction and non-fiction)
  2. Magazines and newspapers 
  3. Online publications and blogs
  4. Media content and website content 
  5. Academic texts (research papers, journal articles, dissertations, etc.) 
  6. Other technical documents like guides and manuals.

But this is a diverse range of documents, right? And each has its own specific requirements even as far as the review process is concerned. Each of these texts at least requires a cursory check or grammar, spelling, and punctuation. But there is more to editing than that. What are those steps? That’s what we will explore further in the article.

Most common 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.

Where can you find an editor? 

  1. In-house editors in publications houses.
  2. in-house editors in academic publications as reviewers. 
  3. Editing and proofreading firms such as PaperTrue, dedicated to improving the text and no other stake 
  4. Freelancers 

How does the editing process differ from text to text? 

Each type of text differ by length and specializations. For example, marketing copy and an academic paper will be edited based on the parameters of who they are written for or where they are to be published. A combination of multiple stages of editing can be used depending on the document type.

  • Books: developmental and substantive. 
  • Academic and legal texts: focus on not changing intent. Onus on the editor. Also, an ethical process. 
  • Website and internet content: with specific SEO related concerns.

The Subjective Nature of Editing

It may be true that much of editing is about the technicalities of language – proper sentence structure, following the rules of grammar, syntax conventions, and so forth. But it would be an exagerration to say that it’s just that. Editing is also about improving and refining your language. To have a language expert by your side means that you have an ally that will help you find the best way to write about whatever you want to communicate. That can be either suggested better-suited words and phrases to your text, or even helping you make stylistic decisions (like tense, point of view and literary devices) that will make your piece more compelling. Thus, an editor helps you make the storytelling more alluring.



This is the end of our brief introduction to this topic. But worry not, because the journey does not end here. Our entire archive is filled with information about editing and proofreading, as well as tips about writing for students, aspiring writers, professional and ESL speakers. Keep visiting our page for weekly updates!