Types of Editing

I’ve written about editing a number of times, including listing the different types of editing. Since the last time I laid this out was two years ago, I thought I’d republish a portion of a prior post that lists different kinds, should any of you be in the market for hiring an editor.

  • Developmental Editing – sometimes lumped in with substantive editing – according to the Freelance Editorial Association, this is the process of helping a writer to develop a novel from concept through any one of the initial drafts. I love this part of story telling most of all. I bounce book ideas off my best friends, and find brainstorming helpful, so the thought of paying someone to help me come up with an idea seems alien to me.  However, if you’re better at execution than ideas, this can help. It’s particularly useful in developing non-fiction material; a good developmental editor can help you go from idea to execution, especially if you don’t write for a living.
  • Substantive  Editing – this is sometimes referred to as ghostwriting editing. This editor helps with clarity, organization, writing/rewriting portions of the text for readability, etc. Given the time and skill involved, paying $0.75 per word isn’t atypical. Much “works-for-hire” editing, tech editing, etc. falls into this category. Having done about 10 years of this, I can assure you that the writer does give up a modicum of control here. Frankly, there is a great deal of trust that the editor can make the book better. For instance, were I Stieg Larsson’s SE, I would have pushed him to take out around 100 pages’ worth of character backgrounds from his Millennium trilogy (per book). As you can imagine, the process can be contentious, so when you hire one, ensure A) you can work together effectively, and B) you both understand and agree on the scope of the editing involved.
  • Copyediting / Line Editing – this is just as important and not as controversial. Copyediting covers grammar, spelling, syntax, word usage, inconsistencies, etc.–the fundamentals of good structural writing.  Just as important, this covers style issues with writing. Not surprisingly, this is where many writers stumble and where it is VERY easy to lose a reader. Trust me, being good at grammar helps, but it doesn’t mean copyediting is unneeded. I find at most 80% of my own mistakes. I even found 3 in this paragraph. Rates vary, often $0.05 – $0.25 per word, depending on what you want done. Do talk with your editor beforehand so that you understand (and can live with) each others’ style choices. (As a good friend once told me, spelling “a lot” allot once is an error; doing it 100 times is a choice.)
  • Proofreading – Often confused with copyediting, this is basically light error correction, typos, checking the “proof” to be published for errors. Anyone should do this, if possible, before publishing. Prices vary, but $0.05 per word isn’t unreasonable. Proofreading is NOT a substitute for copyediting.
“Okay, but the wife ain’t gonna be happy.”
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5 Replies to “Types of Editing”

  1. I wish I had a copy of that bible! Not for the commandment, I hasten to add, but for it must be worth.

    Word and phrase repetition are two of my bugbears.
    I became aware of this ‘irritation’ while reading Stephen Donaldson’s Thomas Covenant series.
    He used the word bifurcated The first time I read the word it struck me as so unusual that my brain registered it in bold capitals and slotted it out front.
    The trouble began the second time I came across it…and the third… and…
    You get the picture?
    Okay, he didn’t use it as much as I might be conveying but because of its uniqueness even a few repetitions begin to stick in the old craw. Now, whenever I think of this body of work – and Donaldson is on the third Covenant series – bifurcated stands up, waves a flag and yells, “Cooeee!”

    I used to have a problem with the word however and I still have to watch myself from time to time. I am not as bad as I used to be , however, which shows I do pay attention to what I write…sometimes. 😉

    1. I’ve had problems with word repetition too. I used to go crazy with “just.” Then I learned to use the Find feature to locate and eliminate them, like a CIA drone. Now I try to avoid the word. It seems that once you get a good word in your head, your brain wants to keep using it.

      I have a friend who used to like saying bifurcates a lot. It got to the point I wanted to bifurcate his head. Why use words if no one you know has heard the thing? In poetry, sure, because it’s supposed to mostly sound cool when you read it, but in other parts of life? Meh.

      1. Smile.
        Pratchett makes a point about this in reference to the words rumpus and fracas in the novel The Truth and he adds something along the lines of:…”it’s like the word beverage, it is never used in normal language and only found on restaurant menus.”

        He is so astute.

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