The Proofreader's Parlour
A blog for editors, proofreaders and writers
Developmental editing, line editing, copyediting, proofreading ... what on earth is the difference and what's best for you when self-publishing?
This post featured in Joel Friedlander's Carnival of the Indies #79
A potted guide to the different levels of editing ...
If you’re a beginner writer and you’re planning to self-publish, you’ll be thinking about getting your book fit for market. Some of you might not realize that there are different levels of editing. And even if you do, you might be fuzzy about what distinguishes each service or what it’s usually called.
No shame in that, believe me – even among professional publishers and independent editors the terminology differs. Consensus be damned! The irony that this lack of clarity and consistency exists in a profession that prides itself on, well, clarity and consistency isn’t lost on me or my colleagues!
In an effort to untangle the issue, I’m offering you a potted guide to the different levels of editing – what each one deals with, what you might expect it to be called, and the questions to ask when you’re sourcing editorial help.
At the bottom of the article is a PDF that you can download to your preferred device and refer to whenever you want.
Think of the editorial process like a play with several acts: writing, drafting, sourcing feedback from beta readers, self-editing, developmental editing or manuscript evaluation, line editing, copyediting, proofreading, publishing. The elements in bold are what we’re focusing on today.
In a nutshell
Basically, there are two levels of work going on – the macro and the micro.
What terms should you use when sourcing editorial help?
There’s a question! My advice is that you explain what you want rather than worrying too much about what it’s called. This is because different editors define their services in different ways. Here are some examples:
Sorting out what you need
So, that’s it for now. I hope you’ve found this discussion of the different levels of editing useful. If there are particular questions that you want clarification on, drop me a line and I’ll do my best to answer them.
As promised, here’s your potted guide! Just click on the image to download it to your device.
Louise Harnby is a fiction copyeditor and proofreader. She curates The Proofreader's Parlour and is the author of several books on business planning and marketing for editors and proofreaders.
Visit her business website at Louise Harnby | Proofreader & Copyeditor, say hello on Twitter at @LouiseHarnby, or connect via Facebook and LinkedIn.
If you're an author, you might like to visit Louise’s Writing Library to access my latest self-publishing resources, all of which are free and available instantly.
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I'm an Advanced Professional Member of the UK's national editorial society.
All text on this blog, The Proofreader's Parlour, and on the other pages of this website (unless indicated otherwise) is in copyright © 2011–17 Louise Harnby. Please do not copy or reproduce any of the content, in whole or part, in any form, unless you ask first.
Author Member of The Alliance of Independent Authors (ALLi). I abide by its Code of Standards in regard to my status as an independent writer.
Advanced Professional Member of the Society for Editors and Proofreaders (SfEP). I'm a signatory to its code of practice as a professional editor.
Featured in The Book Designer's Carnival of the Indies: Joel Friedlander's collection of 'outstanding articles recently posted to blogs'.
Winner of the Judith Butcher Award 2017 in respect of 'highly visible contributions to the SfEP and its membership'.