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Careful editors respect the author’s voice, clarify text, and advance the writer’s goals. Editors are also the reader’s advocate and help ensure that the writer’s words will be understood and appreciated.
… focuses on the structure of a document and may include reorganizing text. An academic paper might be assessed for responsiveness to a journal’s stated acceptance criteria or reviewer comments. Presentation is considered (for example, whether complex text might be more easily grasped in a table). In fiction, a substantive editor evaluates the manuscript as a whole, and makes suggestions for strengthening plot, character, narrative voice, transitions, and dialogue.
… also known as stylistic editing, focuses on the flow of language in sentences and paragraphs. The editor may eliminate wordiness and redundancy, query ambiguous passages, suggest alternative phrasing, rearrange text, or recast passive verbs into active ones. Good line editing will smooth transitions, keep a story or argument moving, improve the readability of the piece, enhance comprehension, and sharpen the text.
… addresses mechanical and consistency concerns and should take place as a document is nearing completion. It corrects for errors in grammar, syntax, and usage, and ensures consistent application of
a chosen style (such as The Chicago Manual of Style for fiction, or a research journal’s guide for manuscripts). Copy editors may also query apparent inconsistencies or incorrect text (content editing); they cross-check references or compare descriptions in text with data in tables. The copy editor’s style sheet documents the treatment of spelling, abbreviation, hyphenation, and numbers not established in a style guide’s stated preferences. For fiction, a style sheet includes character names and attributes (brown eyes, bald, tall, slim), to ensure consistency throughout the book.
… catches errors and inconsistencies in typeset pages, or at the final stage of other printed documents. A proofreader has many concerns beyond spelling and missing text—for example, alignment, list order, page numbers, headings, table content, spacing, and line breaks. Proofreaders often review a page proof against the most recently edited manuscript to confirm that edits were made, perhaps spotting new errors introduced during the copy edit. Or, a proofreader may do a careful “cold read” without benefit of an earlier version for comparison.
Understanding client objectives is key. Experience in writing original content for webpages ensures delivery of a meaningful message; line and copy editing enhances it, since concise wording is persuasive and easy on the eye. These services produce crisp and compelling text for websites and newsletters.
Working with independent authors is particularly satisfying. An editor can help an author polish a fiction or memoir manuscript before submission to agents, or ready a research paper for a peer-reviewed journal. This work often combines the editing levels described on this page and might be done in stages. Copy editing ideally takes place just before submission, to catch any errors either missed or introduced during revisions. Depending on circumstances, different levels of editing may be tackled concurrently. For independent authors who want to avoid extensive content and copy edits, it’s a smart idea to share work first with discerning friends or other interested writers for feedback (resulting in a cleaner version, more ready for editing).
You may request an initial manuscript evaluation to determine the levels of editing that are appropriate for your project. An individual assessment and estimated time frame can help ensure your satisfaction.