Editing is one of those freelance writing terms that has a whole bunch of meanings. The problem is freelance writers, editors and others in the general field of publishing need to be able to talk about different kinds of editing. It’s not all the same.
In general, of course, when you edit you’re taking a piece of writing and (hopefully) making it better. With that in mind here are the kinds of editing – recognizing that mileage will vary and other people will have different answers. Remember most editing, like writing is far from an exact science which means a variety of definitions for the multitude of terms is not surprising.
Copyediting or copy editing – both spellings are correct. This is usually the final editing a manuscript goes through before its published. It requires someone who has patience, a great eye for detail and an thorough understanding of both the rules of grammar and of common usage, plus a good sense of when to use them. Also called line editing. Not so by the way, the term publishing used to refer to print; now it includes print and extends to the huge variety of way written things show up online.
Proofreading – similar to copyediting. The term comes from the idea of ‘proving’ or correcting a manuscript. Normally associated more with shorter manuscripts. Also refers to proofreader’s marks recognized by most print publishers. Proofreading marks are not used as much today because so much editing happens on the computer without paper.
Rewrite, substantive, or substantial editing – I’m not sure why we call rewriting editing, except it has to do with fixing an existing manuscript. Rewriting is just that and it can be as difficult or even more challenging than starting from scratch. Like copyediting, rewriting is a specialized skill. Often good re-writers are not good copyeditors and vice versa – the skills are distinct.
Developmental editing – here the editor works with the client right from the beginning, helping the author develop the concept from start to finish. Usually associated with books and screenwriting but certainly not limited to those.
You may see variations on these terms, but generally even those will fall somewhere within these definitions.
The pricing on each of these kinds of editing is different. And each requires a different skill set and take various amounts of time. As a writer you may be asked to edit. If you take this on be sure you know what type of editing is expected. Most people, even those who hire writers often, really don’t understand the difference.
And, of course, if like me, you hire editors, again you need to be clear on what you want or what your client needs.
What’s your understanding of the types of editing?
Write well and often,
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