What Kind of Editing do you Need?

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What kind of editing do you need for your writing?

Proofreading? Copy Editing? Stylistic Editing? What’s the difference, and which one do you need? There are many different types of editing, and they are easily confused. Here’s a basic breakdown of the types of editing I offer here at The Eyrie:

1. Proofreading

In a nutshell, proofreading is a last word-by-word run-through of otherwise fully prepared materials. The proofreader’s main goal is to pick up any last typos, misspellings, or grammar issues that were missed (or introduced—it happens!) during the editing process. A proofreader often compares the most current document against the previous version to ensure that all edits have been applied and no new errors have been introduced.

proofreader's marks
Your proofreader will take their (virtual or literal) red pen to your almost-final, set-for-publication work.

The proofreader comes in at the end of the editing process, and they only cover the mechanics of the writing: grammar, punctuation, spelling, and typos. They won’t make suggestions on content, word choice, or any other non-mechanical changes, unless something is glaringly wrong or somehow incomprehensible.

Most often, the proofreading phase will take place once the work is in its final form and has been formatted for publication (whether in print or digitally)—hence its name: it’s the last-chance reading of the “proofs” before it goes to print.

2. Copy Editing

Copy editing involves a thorough check of your materials for any mechanical errors, which could include typos, grammar mistakes, or misspellings. A copy editor also makes sure that style choices are applied consistently throughout the work, according to your style sheet or whichever style guide you prefer. If you don’t have a style sheet or preferred guide, your editor will be able to recommend a style guide, and they can help you develop a style sheet if necessary. In copy editing, the content itself (and how it well it reads) is not generally addressed, other than very occasional notes on obvious problems with clarity or consistency.

Copy editing is often what people think of when they think of editing in general. A copy editor takes the draft of your work (once the content is settled) and combs through it to ensure that the grammar, punctuation, spelling, and word usage are at their best. They will fix mechanical errors and typos, and make sure that the work is readable and makes sense.

3. Stylistic editing (or line editing)

Stylistic editing, also known as line editing, is about finding the best way to get your message across. The focus is on flow, clarity, tone, and consistency; the changes suggested by your editor will apply to the content and how it is presented rather than mechanics and corrections. When a stylistic edit is done on your work, the editor will make suggestions for how to better arrange your words and sentences, help you make better word choices, and ensure your writing flows well. The goal is to have writing that is as crisp, clear, tight, and clean as possible.

A stylistic editor keeps the reader or intended audience in mind, and makes sure that the reading level and word choices are the best ones possible for your intended audience.

Often a stylistic edit and a copy edit will happen at the same time, but when you have a stylistic edit done, it is assumed that most mechanical corrections will be done later in the copy editing and proofreading stages.

So there you have it, a quick overview of the main types of editing offered here at The Eyrie Editing and Writing. For more information on the different types of editing, check out Editors Canada’s handy definitions—or if you’re looking for more in-depth descriptions of each type, see their document on Professional Editorial Standards.

Proofreader’s marks photo credit: withassociates The review part 2 via photopin (license)

7 Reasons to Hire an Editor

Fiction or non-fiction, blog posts or marketing materials—all types of professional writing benefit from an editor’s touch!


Fiction or non-fiction, blog posts or marketing materials—all types of professional writing can benefit from an editor’s touch!

It’s a common thought among those who write in their professional lives: “Why would I hire an editor? It looks pretty good to me. I can read it over myself to find any typos or errors.” It’s true, what you’ve written may be just about how you’ve envisioned it—but here’s another truth: an editing professional can bring it from pretty good all the way to outstanding!

Here are 7 good reasons you should hire an editor for your written work:

1. An editor brings fresh eyes to the revision of your materials.

When reviewing your own work, it can be hard for you to notice every error or typo. You know the work so intimately that you end up with what I like to call “writer’s eye”—you just don’t see errors that may jump out to someone else. The more you read it over, the more you lose the ability to notice these mistakes. Your editor brings a new set of eyes to the revision and typo-hunting stage of your writing.

Further to this, in the effort to make a particular point and find just the right words to get your message across, you may have missed a fresher or more concise way to say what you’re trying to say. When you write you can develop a sort of tunnel vision that doesn’t allow you to see other (maybe better) ways of expressing your message to your audience. A professional editor will come to your work with a different perspective, which can pull out stronger ways to get your message out there. (Funny side note: when writing this paragraph, I fell into exactly this—I got stuck on a less-than-clear way of trying to explain my point. It took a lot of re-reading and revising before I realized that there was a better word choice out there!)

Even editors themselves are best served using fresh eyes to go over their writing—missing our own mistakes is just part of the fallibility of our human minds.

2. An editor is trained to see issues where you may not.

Similar to the point above, but different enough to warrant its own number on this list, is the fact that a professional editor is trained and skilled at finding errors where they are hiding. Editors know the tricks they can use to catch easily missed typos or grammar issues. They have the experience to know what to look for, and they know to question everything.

Editors have the skills that allow them to do more than just catch and correct mistakes like the wrong “there, their, or they’re;” they’re trained to find and fix structure problems, grammar issues that are hiding in plain sight, and anything else that may weaken your message.

3. An editor will sit with a dictionary and necessary style guide (or multiple ones) at hand.

An editing professional is ready to check and double check whether everything is perfectly correct. While they do have the training and skills needed to suss out any issues, they also know that to rely only on their own experience and knowledge would be foolhardy. They will use multiple dictionaries and style guides, and any other resource available, to make absolutely certain that the word you used is the word you meant to use, and that style and grammar rules are applied consistently throughout.

It’s in the job description, and they enjoy doing it!

4. An editor will apply consistency, which lends credibility and professionalism.

Consistency is not the first thing you will be focused on when you are working on a written project. It’s not an easy thing to keep in mind while writing, since your main focus is (and should be) your story or message.

Should your document be written using Canadian English, American English, or British English conventions? Will it employ the oxford comma, or not? How should a particular title be abbreviated, and what will be capitalized and when? All of this is within the editor’s domain to figure out and apply.

An editor will use a style guide or your style sheets for the project, and they will follow them to the letter, which will give a smoother and more professional feel to your material.

5. An editor will find just the right words to make your message pop.

Sometimes when you’ve written a piece it’s hard see outside of your choices. Sometimes you’ve chosen the perfect word, but a different sentence construction will clarify your meaning. Sometimes the perfect word is out there for what you want to say, but it was not the first (or second, or third) word that came to mind when you were writing.

It can be hard to see what the other options are once you’ve chosen a direction. This is what your editor is there for—they will come in with a new perspective and a different set of skills, and they can come up with the perfect way to say what you’re trying to express.

6. An editor is trained to preserve your voice.

The above point brings up the potential for concern that involving an editor could change your piece into something that’s no longer “yours”. Not to worry—an editor is trained to preserve the voice and tone of your work, while fixing any problems and helping your message come through loud and clear!

7. An editor knows when to break the rules and when to hold fast.

Part of the job of a professional editor is to stay aware of writing, grammar, and word usage trends. The world of writing and grammar is always evolving; usage changes over time, and some of the rules that seemed set in stone when you were going to school may have been loosened up or thrown out altogether.

With knowledge of the most up-to-date evolution and trends in language use, your editor will be able to recognize the right time to mix it up and actually use that preposition to end a sentence (with). Allowing an editor to tweak your work will allow it to stand out as smooth and professional without letting outdated writing rules drag it down, sucking the life and personality from your written materials.

So, do you want your writing to be the best it can possibly be? Don’t risk losing your message to grammar errors, inconsistencies, typos, or outdated rules—hire a professional editor and let your words shine!