To The Last Word Editing Services

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.

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, a woman goes into a cafe wearing a dress but leaves in jeans and tee shirt. 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 is necessary because it doesn’t matter if the words used make sense, so long as those combinations of letters exist in its database. 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.


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.