Copyediting focuses on repairing errors in spelling, capitalization, punctuation, usage, syntax, and grammar. Whereas proofreading involves only mechanical issues (typos), copyediting ensures correctness, consistency, clarity, and coherency by implementing a consistent formatting style, such as Chicago or AP, with the goal of enhancing readability. While a light level copyedit eliminates any obvious and indisputable errors of grammar (e.g., dangling modifiers), syntax (e.g., lack of parallelism), and usage (e.g., erroneous word choice), a medium-to-heavy level copyedit (also known as line editing) identifies convoluted writing and any other readerly obstacles, such as wordiness, repetition, clichés, mixed metaphors, misuse of dialogue or passive voice, overuse of a favorite phrase or device, and awkward punctuation or phrasing. Copyediting takes place after developmental editing but before a manuscript is self-published or sent off to an agent.

Developmental Editing for Fiction

Developmental editors focus on the big picture. For fiction, this type of edit examines elements such as characterization, plot, setting, dialogue, theme, pacing, conflict, tension, narrative voice, and point of view and whether or not these create a cohesive and meaningful story. A developmental editor strives to pinpoint narrative pitfalls while preserving the author’s voice and vision. A developmental edit takes place after an author has completed a manuscript but is still working through revisions. A developmental edit may involve the author rewriting or deleting sections or even writing new material, which is why a “big picture” edit precedes any copyediting.

Both copyediting and developmental editing are completed within the manuscript using the “Track Changes” and “Comments” features in Microsoft Word.

Creation—an act of chaos
Writing—a process of discovery
Revision—a reworking of one’s vision
Editing—an ordering and refining of a writer’s brave new world