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Types of Editing: A Revision

Red pen and edited manuscriptA while back, I talked about the types of editing as they apply to self-published work, but my post ended up leaving a few of the types of editing out. So I’m back, with another post about the different types of editing!

Acquisitions editing is the process of selecting works for publication. In the novel world, this is what editors at publishing houses do as they read manuscripts they’ve received and decide which ones their publishing house would like to acquire. In the short fiction and poetry world, this is also the task of an editor, who may have assistance to select the pieces that a magazine or anthology or website will publish. In general, this is not something that people can do for themselves, and it’s not something you would want to pay someone to do for you.

Developmental editing is looking at the overall structure, themes, and flow of a piece (novel or shorter) and ensuring that everything fits together nicely. It’s about getting rid of things that aren’t working as hoped, revising things to make them work better in the greater whole, and adding things that are needed to make everything work together. This is a “big picture” kind of editing that looks more at structure than at the “nit-picky” details that come in later stages of editing.

Line editing is about working with a piece at the sentence level to make sure that every sentence (and, in fact, every word) is doing its job well. This is about smoothing out writing at a more fine level of detail than developmental editing would cover, but it’s also looking at themes and flow. It can focus on getting dialogue from the various characters to be distinct and appropriate for each character. It can change up the way sentences flow from one to the next. It’s mostly about language, as distinct from grammar.

Copy editing is looking at the “nit-picky” details of grammar, punctuation, spelling, and consistency. This is what makes sure that your secondary characters don’t have one name at the beginning of a piece and a different name at the end (unless the story is about this name change). This is about making sure you haven’t accidentally used a homonym instead of the correct word, checking that your sentences are grammatically correct, and that all of the words are spelled correctly. This is the meat and potatoes of what I do as an editor in my day job (though I also do line editing and even a tiny bit of what could be called developmental editing for non-fiction).

Finally, proofreading is a lot like copy editing, only it relates to the actual “proof” copies of a (typically) printed work. This is where someone makes sure that all of the previous edits have been maintained throughout, and that nothing has been missed, omitted, or added. And since I know of one book that went to press without its first sentence, and my own original printing of Brass and Glass 2 that added several sections from book 1 to the text, it’s a VERY important step in the editing process.

Another thing that could be included as a form of editing is sensitivity reading, though in general, a sensitivity reader is making broad stroke suggestions with perhaps a few more detailed suggestions about word choices or use. Some sensitivity readers could offer editing suggestions, but for the most part, they may not. However, they provide an extremely valuable service in the publishing world, as they can assist authors present marginalized characters in an accurate and respectful way.

Next week, I’ll talk a bit more about the types of editing from this list that you can do yourself!


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