Stages of Editing

Editing? What is it?

How many times have you read a book, magazine, newspaper, or blog post with numerous misspelled words or grammatical errors?The errors could have been avoided if an editor had been able to edit the text before it was published. Editing is the process of revising or correcting materials for publication.

Editing Process

Editors go through several rounds of editing in order to prepare a manuscript for publication “once to do the initial editing, easily the longest stage; a second time to review, refine, and sometimes correct the editing; and a third time after the author’s review” (Chicago Manual of Style 16th edition, p71-72).

The Initial Editing Stage

The first editing stage, oftentimes called Content Editing, is the longest stage of editing and can take several weeks for the editor to complete. During this time, the editor will reread the text notating any necessary revisions or notes. At times the publisher will have multiple editors work on the manuscript during the content editing stage. Content editing consists of two different types of editing: Developmental and Substantive.

Developmental Editing is most commonly used when editing non-fiction manuscripts; however, it can be used for fiction manuscripts. For non-fiction manuscripts, the editor works with the author to strengthen the argument, improve readability, and confirm ideas flow logically. For fiction manuscripts, the editor will work on improving plot, character, pacing, emotional connections, etc. The editor and author will work closely together to edit the manuscript during this stage.

Once the editor has completed the developmental editing, she moves to Substantive Editing (line or copy editing). The copy editing stage is where the editor works directly in your manuscript either using Microsoft’s Track Changes feature or physically marking the manuscript with proofreader’s marks. During the substantive edit, the editor looks for spelling, grammar, punctuation, syntax, word usage, style and format, clarity of the text, fact-checking, rearranging paragraphs, sections or chapters, POV, dialogue, and checking permissions. The editor spends the majority of her time working on the substantive edit.

The editor will create a style sheet and a reader’s report or editorial letter during the substantive editing stage. The style sheet and editorial letter assist the author, proofreader, and publisher with the final publication. The style sheet includes an alphabetical list of specific spellings, capitalizations, and any other specific style for the manuscript. The editorial letter will contain the editor’s thoughts about the manuscript including any issues with plot, characters, scenes, and dialogue.

The Final Editing Stage

Proofreading is the final stage of editing. Once the editor has edited the manuscript and the author has reviewed and approved the changes, the manuscript is sent to the printers to have a proof of the final book printed. The proofreader will review the proof notating any discrepancies from the final edit and the text ready for print. The proofreader will also note any discrepancies in page markup, layout, color separation, or type. The proofreader will also check all pages for errors including the copyright page, title page, table of contents, appendices, tables and figures, glossary, and index.


Editing is a lengthy and tedious process as the editor reads through the manuscript notating revisions to plot, character development, grammar, syntax, punctuation, spelling, etc. Editing is an important part of the publishing process, and it is the one part that is often skipped. The question you as the author need to ask is: do I want my manuscript to be a perfect when published? If you answered, “Yes!” then you need to find an editor or proofreader.

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