Levels of editing involvement

Disclaimer from Salt River Publishing

The following description provides clarity on the range of editing possibilities available with experienced editors. Each author is responsible for negotiating with the individual SRP editor the range of tasks to be undertaken.

SRP does not impose these guidelines on the editors associated with Salt River Publishing; we simply make the guidelines available as a service to authors and editors – an aid to clear communication between the author and the professionals they work with at SRP.

We hope these guidelines help writers/authors set reachable goals as they work towards bringing their document to a higher level of coherence! SRP is here to assist you with the aspects you cannot manage on your own.


Editing Level Descriptions

Based, with appreciation, on a helpful article by Julia Temlyn

  • Proofreading
  • Copy-editing
  • Content editing
  • Developmental editing

Level 1: Proofreading (Light)

This service is for writing which is already polished but needs another keen eye to look it over. The proofreader tracks changes they make, as well as inserting comments and suggestions for the author to consider. After all, spell-check only knows that the words “there,” “their” and “they’re” are indeed words — not when they’re each most appropriate.

What the copy-editor does in a light proofread/copy-edit
In a light edit, the copy-editor will correct faults in the following areas:

1. Spelling
2. Grammar
3. Capitalization
4. Punctuation
5. Numbered lists
6. Table of contents
7. Table and figure numbers

What is not covered in a light proofread/copy-edit
The copy-editor will not question content or style problems. It is not their place to be a critic. If they believe a manuscript is weak in certain areas or they find major inconsistencies or errors, they will mention it but won’t go overboard.

Level 2: Copy-editing (Medium)

This is for writing that may require more revisions than standard proofreading. The copy-editor tracks changes they make, as well as inserting comments and suggestions for the author to consider.

What the copy-editor does in a medium copy-edit
The copy-editor will cover everything listed above under proofreading/light copy-editing as well as ensuring correctness and consistency of the following:

1. Numbers (For example: Is it 7:00 a.m. or 7 AM or seven o’clock in the morning?)
2. Abbreviations
3. Gender neutrality
4. Content and style (as follows):

  • Audience: The manuscript needs to clearly serve its audience
  • Logic and clarity
  • Word usage and choice
  • Format: Check for consistency, including titles, headers and subheaders

Level 3: Content Editing (Heavy)

What the content editor does in a heavy edit
Content editing looks to make sure the document is clearly written and well organized. In addition to everything that is required in a light and medium copy-edit, the content editor delves into some heavy-duty editing and may make suggestions for rewriting (though they will not provide much rewriting themselves – more on that below). The editor often catches some of the following inconsistencies in a medium copy-edit, but a level 3 content edit actually focuses on the following:

1. Redundancies & Consistency
2. Wordiness and/or triteness
3. Vague generalizations
4. Weak sentence style
5. Organizational weakness & Structural organization
6. Lack of focus
7. Clarity
8. Tone
8. Flow
9. Word choice
10. Tense
11. Grammar, Usage, Spelling, and Punctuation

Content editing involves a lot of labor-intensive work. The editor is not involved with much of the actual rewriting, but will make suggestions. A cardinal rule of this level of editing requires that rewriting must come from the original source.

Level 4: Developmental/Structural Editing (Very heavy)

What the content editor does in a developmental or structural edit
Developmental editing has less to do with grammar and more to do with overall structure and development of the plot or point of the manuscript. This can take place at the start of the writing process, with a developmental editor working alongside the writer to help plan the fleshing out of the manuscript; it can also take place after the first draft revisions of a manuscript, which involves an overall thorough readthrough of the document and subsequent evaluation. Developmental editing often involves:

1. Suggestions for rewriting
2. Clarifications
3. Improving flow by reordering or moving material around
4. Removing redundancies and inconsistencies
5. Checking to correct POV (point of view)
6. Suggestions for instances of “Show, don’t tell.”
7. Development of plot, characters, setting
8. Dialogue work
9. Blending backstory
10. Effective hooks and lead-ins
11. Checking for omissions
12. General fact-checking

Again, each author is responsible for negotiating fees and tasks to be done by their SRP editor. The author needs to create a clear written agreement with the editor and then resolve shortfalls, if any, with the editor concerned. SRP has no legal involvement and no legal agreement with SRP associates and authors. All SRP associates are independent freelance professionals, paid directly by authors, not by SRP.

Creative Commons License
ON SALT RIVER Website by AG et al is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.

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