Types of Editing

There are several different levels or types of editing involved in taking a manuscript from first draft to finished book. Just like a medical professional has a scope of practice, an editor has a specific set of skills within each designation.

In Canada, certified editors work within their scope as set out in the Professional Editorial Standards. The four main types of editing are developmental editing, stylistic editing, copy editing, and proofreading. The goal of each type of edit is to ensure that the text is clear, correct, and that it meets the needs of its intended audience.

So what does each type of edit involve?

Developmental Editing

Also called structural editing, developmental editing looks at big-picture considerations.

On a broad scale, developmental editing involves editing for overall clarity and readability. This can include making changes such as moving paragraphs, adding transitions, adding headings, and reorganizing material into other formats such as lists or charts.

In regards to fiction, developmental editing can be considered the “story level” edit. This includes factors such as character arcs, plot, characterization, and point of view; this is the first level of editing done on a manuscript.

Stylistic Editing

The next level of editing is stylistic editing. This involves making changes to paragraphs or sentences to increase overall flow, clarity and readability.

This includes changes such as editing the text for the reading level of the intended audience and eliminating wordiness. Stylistic editing is occasionally bundled in with a structural edit or a copy edit.

Copy Editing

After stylistic edits, copy editing ensures that the text is grammatically correct, error free, and correctly worded. Unlike proofreading, copy editing can involve making suggestions for better wording of sentences to increase clarity. Copy editors also flag where citations are needed and query the accuracy of information within the text.


Proofreading has a narrower scope than copy editing and is the last opportunity to catch errors in a text before publication. This includes flagging incorrect spelling or word choices (such as homonyms or homophones —-words that look or sound the same but mean different things), and correcting issues with grammar (commas, semi-colons, hyphens, etc.).

In a typeset document, proofreading involves flagging issues that occur because of the way the text is printed, such as the last word of a sentence left alone on the next page or the first line of a paragraph on a different page than the rest of the paragraph (these are called widows and orphans).

This is the level of editing that should catch the minute errors that have been missed in previous rounds; the final polish before the text is ready for the world.

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