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The Editorial Process

The editorial process for most books follows fairly standard steps. You will, however, find variations within those steps from publisher to publisher and from editor to editor. Before beginning a project, it’s important for everyone to understand what exactly is expected from each stage of the edit. As a starting point, I have defined the four main steps of the editorial process:


  • Developmental edit (also known as the substantive, structural, or organizational edit)

  • Line edit

  • Copyedit

  • Proofread

Most of my editing is done in Microsoft Word using its Track Changes feature. If you’re not familiar with how Track Changes works, you’ll find a great explanation here

Other editing formats I use include Adobe Acrobat Pro PDFs and hard copies. 

Editorial Fees

The Editorial Freelancers Association has a chart of typical editorial rates you can expect to pay for high-quality professional editing. These are guidelines many editors follow when setting up their fee structure. I follow these guidelines to a degree, but I personalize my bids to the specific needs of each project. Please contact me if you have any questions.

The Editorial Process Demystified

Developmental Editing

The developmental editor is concerned with the overall structure of the manuscript. She looks at the manuscript with an eye toward organization, logical presentation, flow, tone, and completeness. In doing so, the developmental editor


  • reorganizes paragraphs, sections, or chapters to improve the order in which the text is presented

  • identifies and solves problems of overall accuracy

  • queries the author to write or rewrite segments of text to improve readability and flow of information and to revise some or all aspects of the text to improve its presentation

Line Editing

The line editor is concerned with tone, style, and consistency.  She goes through the manuscript line by line (hence the moniker line editor) with an eye toward sense and flow.  In doing so, the line editor


  • eliminates jargon

  • ensures sentence structure is parallel

  • checks for clear antecedents for pronouns

  • queries the author to clarify meaning

  •  fine-tunes head and sub-head titles

  •  ensures each topic sentence in a paragraph is supported and transitions are smooth

  • ensures the tone is appropriate for the target audience

  • conducts readability tests if needed

  • checks that absolute statements are used only when they are indisputable and that necessary qualifiers are used

  • flags sexist and judgmental language


The copy editor is concerned with the mechanics of the manuscript. She looks at the manuscript with an eye toward consistency and correctness. In doing so, the copy editor 


  • prepares a style sheet

  • corrects spelling, grammar, punctuation, tense, syntax, and word usage while preserving the meaning and voice of the original text

  • checks for consistent style and format

  • queries apparent errors or inconsistencies

  • considers word choice

  • checks subject-verb agreement

  • ensures pronouns have clear antecedents

  • corrects sentence fragments

  • checks for misplaced or dangling modifiers

  • reads for overall clarity and sense on behalf of the prospective audience

  • notes permissions needed to publish copyrighted material

  • cross-checks references, art, figures, tables, equations, and other features for consistency with their mentions in the text

  • verifies names of organizations, brands, and products


The proofreader is concerned with perfection. She does the final check before the book goes into design or production, looking for copyediting issues as well as typos and errors in 


  • consistency

  • spelling, punctuation, and grammar

  • word choice

  • subject-verb agreement;

  • pronouns and clear antecedents

  • sentence fragments

  • misplaced or dangling modifiers


The production proofreader checks a designed layout against the manuscript. She also does cold, or blind, proofreading to check layouts for


  • consistency in folios and footers or headers

  • consistency in chapter titles between the table of contents and the text

  • formatting issues such as layout and style consistency of heads, subheads, sidebars, tables, charts, captions and other design elements

  • correct references and see also directives

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