Editing is critical to any successful publication—whether it’s a website, white paper, newsletter, or blog. An editor’s job is to craft clean, error-free copy and ensure that the author’s message is clear.
Different types of editing are used throughout the publishing process. Here’s a guide to the levels of edit and what each one accomplishes.
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Substantive editing takes place at the beginning of the publishing process. This type of edit ensures that your message is clear, voice is distinct, and arguments are persuasive.
- Assess the overall organization and content of the material to determine its suitability for the intended audience, medium, and purpose
- Reorganize material as needed to achieve a logical flow of ideas
- Rewrite material to enhance clarity, readability, and flow
- Cut material to remove repetitive or superfluous content; add material to fill gaps in content
- Query or resolve factual errors and inaccuracies
- Recast material that would be better presented in a different form (e.g., recast a long series of points as a bulleted list, or number-heavy text as a table)
- Write introductions, conclusions, or transitions as needed
Copyediting happens midway through publishing. The goal is to create a clean, clear document, free of errors that can distract and alienate readers.
- Ensure correct spelling, grammar, punctuation, and usage
- Apply consistent style (i.e., consistent capitalization, hyphenation, and number style)
- Query or resolve factual errors, inaccuracies, or inconsistencies in logic
- Ensure that tables, figures, and other visual elements are consistent with the surrounding text and correctly labeled
- Reword awkward or confusing phrases to enhance clarity and flow
- Streamline sentences to reduce wordiness and redundancy
- Query organizational problems
- Check hyperlinks
- Resolve acronyms
Proofreading takes place just before publication. Proofreaders perform a final quality check, catching errors that snuck by reviewers or were introduced during design.
- Correct any typos but refrain from making structural, stylistic, or copyediting changes unless authorized to do so
- Ensure that all elements intended for layout (e.g., paragraphs, visual elements, headings) are placed correctly in the file
- Check consistency and accuracy of page elements, such as headlines and subheads, bylines, headers and footers, tables of contents, page numbers, and captions
- Ensure design specs have been followed (e.g., check alignment, type size and style, line length, space around elements, rules, use of color, appearance of hyperlinks)
- Mark any formatting irregularities (widows and orphans, overly ragged edges, ill-fitting text, bad end-of-line breaks) and suggest adjustments
Some material has been adapted from the Professional Editorial Standards published by Editors Canada. The standards are available at www.editors.ca/publications/ professional-editorial-standards.
This post is part of a series featuring Dragonfly field guides, tips, and tricks.
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