Copy, Line & Developmental Editing Explained

What’s the difference between Copy Editing, Line Editing and Developmental Editing?

I’m so glad you asked!

Copy Editing

Copy Editing refers to grammar and punctuation. (Sometimes both Copy Editing and Line Editing are referred to as Copy Editing, and sometimes both are referred to as Line Editing, but they are in fact two distinctly different things.) Copy Editing is about written communication, so it’s just following the rules: American English, British English and mixes like Canadian and Australian English.

I do Copy Editing in-line, meaning that I write right in the manuscript. I also throw it in as a perk with Line Editing because, although the vast majority of editors online right now are simple Copy Editors, it’s not really all that hard. There’s none of it you can’t look up for yourself.

NOTE: Copy Editing is not proofreading. All manuscripts have typos, which get past even the most diligent of editors. Always proofread your finished manuscript for typos. Word provides Spellcheck and Grammarcheck, which can make proofreading easier (although beware Word’s bugs, such as its misunderstanding of “who” and “whom.”) Proofreading should be done by more than one person, and it can be done free by friends and loved ones.

Line Editing

Line editing refers to prose. It’s about the craft of writing, and that means paragraph structure, sentence flow, word choice and language-related techniques. That also means voice, style, readability and forward movement. And in fiction it means the difference between scenes and exposition.

I do Line Editing in-line. It is what distinguishes professional from amateur writing, and it takes a long time to develop a really good ear. I’ve been developing mine for thirty years. It can be a bit shocking to read your own words Line Edited, but it is also an enormous thrill.

Your story in professional voice!

Developmental Editing

Developmental Editing refers to storytelling, both the art and the craft. This involves not just plot structure, but also character development and motivation, theme, premise, symbolism, tension, pacing and the author’s search for truth. Truth? Yes, truth. That’s the art of storytelling.

There are rules to story design that, while not enforced through venerable documentation like grammar and punctuation guides, are enforced by readers who put down badly-designed stories and walk away. I make available as much of my knowledge of developmental issues as possible through my blog, advice column and books, but the truth is that stories are vastly complex entities, and each comes with its own unique challenges. This is where hiring an Independent Editor becomes the most economical choice for the serious writer.

For a Developmental Edit, my client and I discuss developmental issues by email over the course of several weeks. For a Developmental Edit Letter, I send the author a single letter discussing developmental issues.

Sample Copy, Line & Developmental Edits

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