I provide structural editing (also known as substantive or developmental editing), copy-editing (also known as sub-editing) and informal proofreading. I do not offer formal proofreading using proofreader’s marks or symbols.
- See this page for more detailed information about my structural editing service.
- See this page for an explanation as to why you need an expert opinion.
The Editing Process
Traditionally, in a professional publishing house editing a book is a three stage process. This applies equally to fiction and non-fiction. (Processes for magazines, newspapers and web site content are slightly different) The stages for book publishing are:
- 1: Structural (sometimes known as Substantive) Editing
- 2: Copy Editing (known as Sub-Editing in the UK magazine and newspaper industries)
- 3: Proofreading
The process begins by looking at the work as a whole – structural editing – and gradually narrows down to the smallest of technical details. The reason for this is that there is no point in copy editing or proofreading when the novel will still need (often considerable) work by the author to address matters which may range from problems with the story to inconsistent or unconvincing character development.
So structural editing always comes first. Click here for a detailed explanation of how structural editing works, what it does, and what will happen if you hire me as a structural editor.
After structural editing comes copy-editing (or, in UK newspapers and magazines, sub-editing). While in practical terms there is often some overlap with structural editing (and the two processes are regularly combined in the magazine and newspaper industries), copy-editing is the part of the editorial process which comes after everyone involved is fundamentally happy with the book. The purpose of copy-editing is to check the writing on a sentence by sentence basis, and to make sure that there are no errors or inconsistencies.
The copy editor’s job is sometimes described as being to ensure that a text is ‘clear, correct, concise, comprehensible, and consistent.’ The copy editor sees that sentences are complete, written in clear English, are factually accurate (for a non-fiction publication) and say what the author intended them to say.
The copy-editor will address spelling, punctuation, grammar, terminology, jargon, and semantics. They will make sure that the text conforms to the publisher’s house style, or a particular external style guide. (Click here for information about style guides).
A copy-editor will address continuity issues, bringing to the attention of the author details which can easily be overlooked. For example, some friends sit down to a Chinese meal, but a few paragraphs later are described as eating Italian food. A man who was born in April later celebrates his birthday in November.
Once the author has made any necessary revisions in response the structural and copy-editing phases of the editing process then the book should be ready for the final stage, proofreading. In professional publishing this is a technical process involving checking a typeset manuscript for mistakes or ‘typos’ (typographical errors) and marking the manuscript up with a specific set of marks or symbols.
However, when people talk about proofreading often what they mean is a much less technical, more informal process. Along with structural editing and copy-editing, this is one of the things I can do for you. Reading the document, usually on screen, and checking grammar, spelling, punctuation, layout, formatting, and also sense, making sure, for example, that the right words have been used throughout. This last task is necessary because a computer spellchecker only knows that you have correctly spelt words. It can’t tell if those words are the ones you meant to use, and it is easy to sometimes type the wrong word. For the computer, as long as a particular combination of letters exist in its database as a ‘word’, everything is fine. Which is why you will often read sentences like: The sun was very hat today. Because all the computer knows is that hat and hot are words. It hasn’t a clue which one makes sense in any particular sentence. Only a human being can work that one out, know that the writer meant: The sun was very hot today.
I can provide structural or copy-editing for you, or non-technical proofreading – i.e. check your document for spelling and punctuation, etc. but without marking up using proofreader’s marks or symbols. Every job is different, so my rates are by agreement based on your requirements. I will always provide a fixed quote for any job before beginning work.