There can be a lot of crossover in the world of editing and proofreading, particularly for non-publishers, and what each level of editing involves can be unclear if you don’t live in that world. The following list details the different levels of editing I provide, with a brief explanation of what each entails.

Line editing

  • Line editing basically involves addressing the language of a text itself and does not necessarily deal with the nuts-and-bolts errors that a copy editor looks for. Instead, a line edit focuses on the message you are trying to convey and may involve a considerable amount of rewriting. Is your sentence structure clear and easy to read? Does your story flow from one scene to the next? Is your style appropriate for your intended audience? Are you overly fond of clichés or are there passages that might alienate some of your readership? These are the types of issues that will be dealt with during this stage of the editing process.

Copy editing

  • Copy editing focuses more on the technical aspects of language than line editing and usually takes place afterwards, although the two can happen concurrently. A copy editor looks for issues of formatting, grammar, syntax, punctuation, layout and consistency. Are semicolons used correctly? Are subject and verb in agreement? Do you consistently use either US or UK spellings? Is your protagonist’s furry best friend a Jack Russell on page 42 but a Patterdale on page 105? A copy editor will spot these issues and more.

Proofreading

  • Proofreading is the final step in the process and involves combing through the edited text, word by word, to check for any final typos that may have been missed or introduced during the editing stages. A proofreader will generally assume that any language issues have been dealt with already and will give the text a final once-over and tidy-up, making as few changes as possible. It is the editorial equivalent of dusting and straightening the painting on the wall after it has been painted, framed and hung.

Proof-editing

  • As you may have guessed from the name, proof-editing is a bit of a hybrid beast that involves elements of both copy editing and proofreading. This type of edit is particularly well-suited to websites, marketing materials, newsletters and postgraduate papers.