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Levels of Editing vs. Levels of Proofreading and Why They Are Different

Ulfah Alifah
Ulfah Alifah
levels of editing

Table of Contents

Levels of editing and proofreading are the responsibilities that may editor has for making significant revisions to content and wording. 

They must also watch for patterns and errors. This is particularly important when editing a lengthy document. That’s quite different from proofreading.

They can use techniques like highlighting keywords and breaking up paragraphs so each section can focus on one main idea. And much more. 

What is the other difference between Levels of editing vs. levels of proofreading? To make it clear, have a look at this article!

Developmental editing is the first stage in the editorial process

The first stage in the editing process is called developmental editing, and it involves a lot of different aspects. 

The developmental editor will review and critique the manuscript for errors, as well as cut sections or add new ones. Developmental editors also take into account the target audience, so they will make changes that make the book better for the reader.

Developmental editing is essential for every piece of writing. It can improve the structure, themes, plot, and characters of your story. 

Even if you are an established writer with several drafts, developmental editing can still prove helpful. If you plan to publish your work traditionally, you can hire copy editors and proofreaders.

The developmental editor will make suggestions about the story and will also suggest major rewrites if necessary. In some cases, they may want to change plot elements, characters, settings, dialogue, and other parts of the manuscript. 

Developmental editors are particularly focused on big ideas and will make you rethink those elements.

In fiction, developmental editing often involves rewriting chapters, paragraphs, or even sentences. The extent of the changes will depend on how deeply the editor drills down. 

See also: Copywriting vs. Content Writing: The 4 Key Differences and How to Know Which One to Pursue?

A major rewrite might result from extensive developmental editing. Further, some authors choose to make major changes after the developmental editor has finished with the developmental editing.

A developmental editor’s goal is to make suggestions for improving the overall quality of the manuscript. They may recommend that a character be eliminated or that a chapter be reordered. 

They will also make suggestions about pacing and the quality of dialogue. In addition, developmental editors are trained to make suggestions about the story’s structure and message.

Proofreading is another step in the editorial process. While developmental editing is focused on the content and structure of the document, proofreading is focused on minor details. 

Proofreading, as the fourth stage of the editorial process, is important for the overall quality of the document. If a proofreader isn’t thorough, the document could get slashed by the publisher.

Once developmental editing is complete, a copyediting stage follows. In this stage, the copyediting editor will check for grammatical errors and ensure that the book’s structure matches the overall vision. 

When all developmental edits are complete, copyediting begins. This stage is the final stage before publishing.

Substantive editing is the final edit before a manuscript is typeset

Substantive editing is the last round of edits before a manuscript is typeset and published. 

The editor targets the content of a manuscript, including rewriting, cutting, and re-ordering. They also focus on the big-picture elements of the story, such as the protagonist’s likability, GMC, and secondary characters. They also address the suspension of disbelief.

Editors refer to each editing level by different names. Each level builds on the previous. In big-picture editing, an editor will focus on organization, readability, and flow.

A developmental editor will move sections of text around to assess logic, presentation, and overall message.

See also: UX Writing and UX Design: How to Combine?


Copyediting is a common process in publishing. This involves making sure that the text is free of errors and is easy to understand. 

Also, copyediting ensures that the text is readable and free from typographical errors. It is the final stage of editing before a manuscript is typeset.

The editor will be looking for typos, grammatical errors, and other issues that might make the book more or less accessible. 

They will also look for places where the flow of the story is disrupted or the pace abruptly changes. If these issues are present, the editor will make changes to the manuscript to improve it.

Line editing

Line editing is another type of editing. It involves polishing up sentences and removing redundant words and phrases. The goal is to replace redundant words with words that convey meaning. 

Line editors will also eliminate passive voice usage and vague terms. Line editing takes longer than other types of editing and requires more effort.

Development editing takes a comprehensive look at a manuscript. It involves making substantial revisions after the first draft. Usually, a shorter document will not need this type of editing. However, longer documents may benefit from additional feedback. 

However, if you haven’t decided on a specific editing option yet, you can choose to hire developmental editors for the job.

See also: UX Writing: Rules for Writing and Designing Text about Products

Mechanical editing is the last stage in the editorial process

There are many different types of editing, all of which are essential for a document’s overall quality and readability. 

Each one addresses different aspects of the writing process, from sentence structure to word choice. They may overlap but are generally separate stages. 

Mechanical editing focuses on the structure of sentences.

Mechanical editing involves applying a specific style, such as the Chicago Manual of Style or the American Psychological Association style. 

This step ensures that all the written content adheres to academic style guidelines and is consistent across the entire document. It also checks for spelling, capitalization, punctuation, and other style rules.

After the first two stages, mechanical editing is the last step in the editorial process. It involves making small changes to the document to improve its readability. It is particularly useful for nonfiction books. 

Good copy is important, but the format should support the copy. For instance, in a cookbook, a recipe should have the same measurement system as the main text. Also, if a recipe is listed in a table, the recipe should be properly formatted.

Substantive editing focuses on the overall organization of the text. It involves tightening and clarifying the prose at the scene, paragraph, and sentence levels. It also involves reorganizing material to show better execution and clarity. 

Substantive editors will often make substantial changes to the manuscript, including adding new material. 

It is important to note that substantive editing is a very specific type of editing, so make sure to verify your editor’s services before hiring one.

The developmental edit is another type of editing. It takes place early in the writing process. This type of editing focuses on the big picture arc of the project, as well as specific aspects of the story such as the relationships between the protagonists and the themes. 

They also focus on the writer’s use of language but are less concerned with the content.

On-screen editing vs. hard copy editing

On-screen editing has a number of advantages over hardcopy editing. 

First, on-screen editing eliminates the time required to transfer corrections from paper to computer. Second, there are fewer transcription errors, which means fewer errors to fix in the final review stage. Typed edits are easier to understand than handwritten ones.

Third, on-screen editing can be performed faster and cheaper than hardcopy editing. While some freelance editors prefer to work with hardcopy documents, most work with electronic files. 

Using modern software makes it easier to compare two versions of a document side by side. For example, the author can search for instances of a particular word using the search function of the word processor. This allows the editor to find those instances without retyping the entire document.


Proofreading is the final step in the editing process. It involves checking for errors in grammar, spelling, and punctuation. 

Proofreaders also check for consistency in style and formatting. Editing, on the other hand, is a more comprehensive process that includes both proofreading and substantive editing. 

Substantive editing focuses on tightening and clarifying the prose at the scene, paragraph, and sentence levels. It also involves reorganizing material to show better execution and clarity.

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