Thank you to Reedsy for taking feedback from editors and authors to come up with these concise definitions for the various types of editing.
Acorn Author Services provides Developmental Editing and is dedicated to making your writing shine!
An editorial assessment is an extremely valuable first overview of your manuscript by a professional editor. Your editor will read through the entire manuscript and provide thoughtful, in-depth feedback concerning elements such as plot, characterization, structure, consistency and style. Feedback from an editorial assessment can lead to significant changes to your manuscript. The assessment will identify your book’s strengths and weaknesses, and help you devise a revision strategy that dramatically improves the execution of your idea.
When it comes to manuscript editing, all three terms are pretty much interchangeable. A developmental edit is a thorough and in-depth edit of your entire manuscript. It is an examination of all the elements of your writing, from single words and the phrasing of individual sentences, to overall structure and style. It can address plot holes or gaps, problematic characterization and all other existing material.
After a round of developmental editing, a manuscript can change substantially; for inexperienced writers, accepting direct and honest feedback can be a difficult experience. Much of what you have spent many weeks, months or even years writing can be cut, shaped, moved or heavily criticised.
Good developmental editing will also bear in mind your target audience and will judge your work in relation to professional industry standards and expectations. Only once your manuscript has been cut, reshaped, revised, and developed will it be ready for a copy edit and proofread.
How is developmental editing different from an editorial assessment?
The main difference is that an editorial assessment evaluates big-picture issues like characterization, plot, structure and style by way of a separate document — like a professional, super-in-depth book report. A content edit means the editor will be working in your document with you, so in addition to the big-picture items addressed, he or she can also point out line-level issues. Developmental editing is more labor intensive than editorial assessment, and therefore more expensive. If your manuscript is still in an early draft phase, the editorial assessment is likely a good first step in developing your content to a professional standard. Developmental editing should begin when you have a polished draft in hand.
Copy editors are mechanics for language: they edit your book’s text or “copy.” Fiction or non-fiction, academic or populist, YA or Sci-Fi—copy editors help create the most readable version of your book.
They’ll make sure your manuscript isn’t riddled with bad grammar, spelling mistakes, or glaring inconsistencies. They’ll break up your 50-word sentences into smaller ones that readers won’t skim. They’ll catch scenes in which your antagonist is wearing sunglasses and spectacles at the same time. They’ll save your tone and style from unintentionally wild shifts between sections. They’ll pull your book together page by page.
Proofreading is the final step in the editing process. It’s the ultimate polish on your final files before they go to the printer or digital press. Ensuring that your text has no tiny errors in spelling or punctuation brings your writing to a level of professionalism required in the competitive publishing world. Many authors even hire more than one proofreader, double checking that absolutely no mistakes get through and adding an extra level of reassurance for the author.
Proofreading requires a keen eye for detail and a systematic method in order to spot every subtle error and typographical mistake.
The main difference between a proofreader and other types of editors is the mindset with which they approach the book. A proofreader will not focus on the overarching structure of your story, or the strength of your prose. They look for unintentional errors in spelling, grammar and mechanics. A proofreader will not add in or take away specific words or phrases, but instead focus their sharp eyes on small errors that ultimately make a big difference.
For print books, the proofreader is checking the aesthetics: page design and typesetting. For books with a table of contents, they are cross-checking those numbers and chapter names. For books with photos, they are checking the captions for style and accuracy, that photos are placed correctly, that the photos have a credit.