Developmental Editing, Copy Editing and Proofreading Explained

By Heidi Parton

Throughout the evolution of writing a book, from first draft to final product, your writing will undergo many transformations. This includes everything from multiple author drafts and revisions—undertaken alone or with the help of trusted readers—to more formal edits once a manuscript is accepted for publication by a publisher.

There are three main types of edits a manuscript undergoes after submission to Publish Her: developmental edits, copy edits and proofreading. Understanding these different types of edits will help you know what to expect at each stage of the publishing process.

Developmental Editing

Developmental editing comes first, before the copy editing and proofreading stages. Some manuscripts will not require developmental editing, especially those written by a seasoned author. These instances, however, are the exception—not the rule. While copy editing and proofreading focus on correcting the technical aspects of writing, like spelling and punctuation, developmental editing’s focus is on strengthening the bigger picture content and structure of a manuscript.

A manuscript’s readability is the guiding force in a developmental edit. Your editor will approach your manuscript like a reader, paying attention to whether its opening chapters work to effectively set up the book and make a reader want to keep reading; whether its chapters flow logically from one to the next; and whether your book’s ending feels complete and delivers the promised “payoff.” This applies whether the purpose of your book is to tell a story, as in fiction or memoir, or to convey specialized knowledge or researched information about a given topic.

Publish Her approaches developmental editing as a collaboration between writer and editor. Your developmental editor will endeavor to honor and maintain your unique voice and style. Although your editor will be pointing out potential areas of weakness—as well as areas of strength—it is your book and, as its author, you ultimately approve (or reject) the changes suggested for your book.

Once the book is of publishable quality, it will move on to the copy editing phase.

Copy Editing

Although copy editing and proofreading both involve the more mechanical aspects of editing, and both occur near the end of the publishing process, these comprise two distinct phases of the overall editing process.

Copy editing comes before proofreading and is largely concerned with polishing the final draft of the manuscript. At this phase of the process, your editor will be evaluating the technical aspects of writing, like spelling, punctuation, and grammar, but will also review more subjective aspects, such as proper word choice. Your copy editor will also be looking for any internal inconsistencies and suggesting changes that ensure a cohesive tone across the entirety of the book.

Although this phase comes before the book is sent to our designer for layout (also known as typesetting), copy edits do not call for marked changes in either the content or structure of the book.

Proofreading

Once the book has been typeset by the designer, you will receive page proofs (galleys) to review and approve. The last phase of editing happens when you receive page proofs from Publish Her—hence the name “proofreading.” You and your proofreader will undertake a careful review of the entire text, looking for typos and errors. While you should review proofs with the utmost care and attention, at this point changes must be limited to typographical errors.

This final stage of the publishing process provides the opportunity to confirm that the final manuscript has been converted with accuracy to the typeset page. Proofreading does not allow for revising or rewriting text.

By familiarizing yourself with these phases of editing, you’ll have a better idea of what to expect at each stage of our collaborative publishing process, and you’ll be poised to understand the degree and kinds of changes that can be made at each phase.

About the author: Heidi Parton loves writing, reading and collecting books. She’s earned a bachelor’s degree B.A. in English, a law degree and an Master of Fine Art in creative nonfiction. Merging Heidi’s love of language and the law, she spent a decade working in legal publishing, first as an acquisitions editor, then as publisher of West Academic. In addition to completing her own autobiographical novel, Heidi is thrilled to be once again helping other authors bring their books into the world.

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