Types of Editing

Editorial services range from extensive reworking of a manuscript to final polishing. A typical manuscript undergoes four editing stages: developmental editing, substantive editing, copyediting, and proofreading.

Developmental Editing

Developmental editors work with material that is not yet in manuscript form. They establish a collaborative relationship with writers and help shape a manuscript from a rough draft, an outline, or even sketchy notes. The writer specializes in content, the editor in form. As the author writes or rewrites, the developmental editor provides feedback, guidance, and encouragement.

Substantive Editing

Substantive editors (manuscript editors) work with completed manuscripts. They begin by assessing the manuscript as a whole for style, tone, structure, logic, and accuracy. Then they eliminate the manuscript’s weaknesses and enhance its strengths. These editors may reorganize the manuscript, rewrite portions of text, eliminate wordiness, write transitions and summaries, and work with the author to resolve inconsistencies or clarify confusing passages. A manuscript edited for substance goes back to the client for final review.


Copyeditors revise the manuscripts line by line. The copyedit process can be light, medium, or heavy, depending on the quality and complexity of the manuscript.


Proofreaders provide a final check for grammatical, spelling, typographical, and in some cases, formatting errors and inconsistencies in a document before it is published. The proofreading process goes beyond what a computer “spell check” can accomplish, as “spell checks” are notoriously inaccurate and incomplete in their assessment of a manuscript's errors. If a document has never been reviewed by a professional editor and is full of errors, it likely requires a higher-level editing service. When proofreading typeset materials, proofreaders also check for poor type quality and deviations from typesetting conventions.

Production Editing

Production editors manage the process a manuscript goes through to become a publishable product. They keep the project moving by coordinating the services of the copyeditor, designer, artist, and proofreader to control quality, maintain the production deadline, and stay within budget.

Begin your search for the right editor for your job on the Find an Editor page.