Understanding The 3 Major Types Of Editing

Did you know that there are different levels of editing? I bet you did, but do you understand them?

Editing is much more in depth than most people believe it is. Thus, making editing seem even more overwhelming than it really is.

It’s a lot to take in at first, but it’s actually not that bad. I think the most confusing part about it is that different types of editing have various names that all mean the same thing.

I myself get confused, so let’s talk about it.

Understanding The 3 Major Types of Editing

Developmental Editing | Structural Editing | Substantive Editing

This is one of the heavier forms of editing and definitely the most in-depth. With this form of editing, you’re looking at:

1. Overall plot (the big picture, goals of the story)
2. Character development
3. Pacing and tense (voice, tone, etc.)
4. Dialogue
5. Possibly rewriting entire paragraphs or chapters (add or remove information, reorganize scenes, revise sentence structure)

Ask yourself:

  • Does this flow properly?
  • Is there a clear opening, climax, and resolution?
  • Does the overall story make sense?

This type of editing will take the longest and be the most draining for you, but if done right, it’ll be worth it. It will completely reform and reimagine your manuscript.

Copy Editing | Line Editing | Stylistic Editing | Content Editing

While some people would consider copy editing to be separate from the rest I just listed, I’m clumping them together because they’re similar enough to each other.

This is kind of like a medium form of editing. When you copy edit, or line edit, you’re revising individual sentences. You’re looking for:

1. Revising the structure to let it flow better
2. Replacing words (weak words, repetitive words, etc.)
3. Making sure the sentence makes sense
4. Grammar, punctuation, etc.

Read each sentence out loud and ask yourself,

  • Does this sentence make sense? Is it awkward?
  • Are the language and vocabulary appropriate for the targeted audience?
  • Is this repetitive from another sentence before it? (If so, which sounds better and where should it be placed?)

You may go cross-eyed after a while, but it’ll narrow everything down for you.


This should be the final editing stage. It’s the lightest and, in my opinion, the easiest.

Proofreading is about finding those little mistakes that you didn’t catch before. Including, but not limited to:

  • General typos
  • Spelling
  • Grammar
  • Punctuation
  • Formatting
  • Capitalization
  • Tenses
  • Article and pronoun use

Most of this will be caught in the copy editing, but proofreading is a nice wrap up to finally put that shiny bow on your manuscript as you prepare it for the world.

Bonus: Fact Checking

Another kind of editing you may do, depending on your genre, is checking for facts and accuracy of your topic. This would most likely be done during the copy editing.

When writing anything that relates to something in real life, make sure:

  • The stats and facts are correct
  • the names are correct and spelled right
  • Statements are properly quoted

And more. Make sure you do your research from credible sources!

In conclusion…

Editing is a long process. It’s draining. It’s difficult. It’s annoying. It’s confusing. Still, it’s something that has to be done.

If you know what you’re doing and get into a good groove with it, your manuscript will shine.

How does editing treat you? Do you have any tips? Let me know in the comments below.

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18 thoughts on “Understanding The 3 Major Types Of Editing

    • I’m glad you think so! I’m trying to get into freelancing and I honestly had no idea that there were different types of editing. No wonder I suck at editing! Lots of research later, I hope this post makes sense and helps a lot of people editing their novels. 🙂

  1. This is a great source for all different types. My first series was self-published and I will sadly guarantee I did not edit my tale in the best of ways. I’ll have to remember what you wrote here to properly prepare my next novel to be sent through a publishing company. Great tips and thanks for writing this!

    • Editing is hard. I did a lot of research for this post and even I was confused as I wrote it, lol. I’m glad you find it helpful though!

  2. Editing is a follow-up to querying (asking the evident questions) and as you so well indicate takes many forms. One form not mentioned involves numbering paragraphs to change, improve their order, and inserting new material to fill in the gaps. But, as you also say, the final text has to make sense and flow. Editing, which I performed professionally for years, may be compared to “cutting” a film.

    • Reorganizing the paragraphs could also be considered content editing. You can go through each individual sentence or look at each individual paragraph as a whole. Either way, I find editing can be overwhelming, lol. It is indeed a lot of work.

  3. Good grief, Rachel. I’m just beginning the first serious editing of my book – this was such a downer! But all great – bad timing for me….

Let me know your thoughts!

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