Editing is a fairly large umbrella and sometimes clients aren’t sure precisely what kind or how much they need. Let’s take a quick look at the kinds of services an editor provides and what each of them includes. Note that, like me, the best editors specialize; they do not offer every type of service.
This is the nitty-gritty technical editing: correcting spelling, punctuation, syntax (sentence construction), and so on. It’s about following the established rules of good grammar, not making judgments or assessments of the content itself—it essentially dots all the i’s and crosses all the t’s. Copyediting may also incorporate fact checking and consistent citation styling. A skilled copyeditor will verify that you adhere to your desired English style: UK, Canadian, Australian, or American. As a distinction, proofreading also encompasses comparing before and after versions of edited documents for consistency and accuracy.
The division between line editing and copyediting can get a bit blurred, especially if your editor offers both services, as I do. Line editing can incorporate all the technical error fixes while also incorporating some revision/rewriting, eliminating excessively or incorrectly used words or phrases, and strengthening prose and style. It comprises, as the name implies, going through the manuscript line by line, sometimes doing several passes, first to clean up the technical errors and then revisiting to uncover any more substantial weaknesses. Where a particular style guide is required or desired (e.g., Chicago Manual of Style, AP, APA, etc.), a line editor ensures adherence. I also ensure that dialogue is believable and that characters are consistently portrayed.
Although not under the standard editing umbrella, I also offer indexing services. Indexing software abounds nowadays and so do very badly indexed books as a result. Good indexes are a joy to use; bad indexes can make or break your book in a customer’s eyes, particularly nonfiction and “how to”-type publications. Indexing requires discretion and good judgment to ensure that only (and all) the most helpful information makes the cut.
Sometimes referred to as content editing, this is an assessment of your manuscript for flow, organization, strength, logic, construction, cohesiveness, etc., and involves working with the writer to create a well-organized draft. A skilled substance editor focuses on the strengths and weaknesses of the overall project and does not make corrections. (I do not typically offer substantive editing as a specific service; however, I will alert you if I note weaknesses in any of these areas.)