What Are the Different Types of Editing?

    If you have ever written anything, you have probably needed an editor. If you have ever hired an editing service, then you know that editing is actually a complex process, and there are different types of editing. Copy editing, line editing, substantive editing, mechanical editing, and developmental editing are all different methods of editing a written document. Academic editing and journal editing are also services available for hire. What is the difference between them? How do you know what type of editing your writing needs? Let’s look at what each type of editing entails and discuss the differences between them so that you’ll always know what type of editing service to ask for.

    What Are the Five Major Types of Edits?
    While there may be some variation in what they are called, generally, there are five major types of edits that are performed on writing. In no particular order, they are: 

    • Developmental, substantive, or content editing
    • Structural editing
    • Copy editing
    • Line editing
    • Mechanical editing

    What are the differences between these types of edits, and when do you need each one? Each of these types of editing is a critical part of the revision process and generally marks the progression of a document from a rough draft to the final version. Depending on the type of document you are having edited, there may be some overlap in what these stages of editing look for, but for the most part, they are clear and distinct editing stages.

    Major Edits: Developmental and Structural Editing
    Developmental editing, also known as substantive or content editing, is usually the first step of editing that a manuscript will go through. These types of editing may be applied to books, academic papers, research papers, or articles. Developmental editing looks deeply at the content of a paper. Substantive editing will consider the big picture and ask questions like, does the paper or book make sense? Does it flow well? Are the ideas clearly developed and articulated? Are there any major logical holes or flaws? If you hire substantive editing services to do this type of editing for you, the editor will usually leave notes for you to consider and recommend big changes. The editor may delete sections or suggest adding more information.

    Structural editing can happen together with developmental editing or as a separate process. Substantive editing services often provide them together as a service. Structural editors look at the overall way that a story, research paper, or article is structured. They focus on logical flow, style, tone, and general quality of writing. Like developmental or substantive editing, structural editing looks at the big picture of your writing. These types of editing are both important steps on your way to developing a well-written, well-organized manuscript.

    Next Steps: Line and Copy Editing
    Once your editor (or you) are happy with the structure, content, and logical flow of your writing, it is time for the next step of editing: line and copy editing. Copy editing can include making corrections to spelling and punctuation. However, the editor generally focuses more on grammar, word choice, and enhancing overall writing quality. For example, if you hire copy editing services, they will make sure that your paper uses active rather than passive voice and avoids overly long or awkward phrasing. If you hire copy editing services for academic editing, they will also review your paper to make sure that it properly conforms to the citation style and that references are complete. A copy editor ensures that the tone and style of a piece are consistent and appropriate for the target audience.

    Line editing is a close cousin of copyediting, but there are some key differences, and hence it is a separate editing step. Line editing gets its name because the editor goes through your writing “line by line.” They closely examine word choice, the impact of your writing and provide polish to make sure that your writing is clear and eloquent. Line editors will point out phrasing that sounds clichéd and suggest fixes for run-on sentences. They focus on clarity and will simplify your writing so that the meaning is clear and not overly convoluted.

    Both line editing and copy editing are important types of editing that will refine and polish your writing. These types of editing are important steps, no matter what type of paper you have written.

    Finishing Up: Mechanical Editing
    Now that your paper has been reviewed for structure, content, coherence, style, flow, grammar, and word choice, it is time for the final editing step: mechanical editing. Mechanical editor takes on the task of ensuring that spelling, grammar, punctuation, and formatting. If you are seeking academic editing, mechanical editing is the step of making sure that your paper conforms perfectly to the style guide your paper is written in (MLA, APA, or Chicago). Mechanical editors carefully read your paper to ensure consistent capitalization, abbreviation, and punctuation. Copy editing services will sometimes offer mechanical editing along with copy editing. However, these types of editing are different, so make sure to specify if you need just one or both if you hire an outside editing service.

    Once your paper has gone through all of the different types of editing, you will be left with a beautiful piece of writing that is structurally logical, has no holes in information or flow, and is written clearly and concisely. While sometimes the different types of editing overlap a bit, they are distinct from each other. It is important to know the difference so that you can clearly communicate your needs when hiring an academic editing service or other type of editor to review your work. This way, you can make sure that your paper receives the attention that it needs.