The Differences Between Line Editing and Copyediting

As an editorial instructor and coach, I’m often asked about the differences between line editing and copyediting. Since both skills are performed at the sentence level, it’s important to understand the differences between them. 

There are four skill levels in editing: developmental editing, line editing, copyediting, and proofreading. Line editors and copy editors work with content after it has been structurally refined in the developmental stage and before it gets the final pass from a proofreader. This blog post focuses on how line editing and copyediting are unique. However, you’ll also learn how they work together quite well to bring you more work, money, and clients.

The differences between line editing and copyediting

What Is Line Editing?


During the editorial process, line editing is done before the copyediting phase. Line editing is also known as stylistic editing or content editing. 

It is the one editorial skill where you can reorganize, edit, and rewrite sentences and paragraphs. No other level of editing, including proofreading, allows you to reorganize paragraphs and rewrite sentences.

Line editors work on all kinds of content, and they work with text on a line-by-line level. They focus on: 

  • style 
  • flow
  • tone
  • clarity 
  • language 

Line editing does not involve fixing spelling or punctuation like copyediting does. Instead, it focuses on fixing things like redundancies, awkward phrasing, and repetition.

Can you work as an editor who focuses on just line editing?


Absolutely! Line editors are in high demand due to their unique skill sets and understanding of language. You can work for:

  • Publishers
  • Businesses
  • Brands
  • Writers
  • Entrepreneurs
  • Agencies
  • Government 

For a more detailed breakdown of exactly what line editors do, check out this post, Everything You Need To Know About Line Editing.

What Is Copyediting?


Copyediting is the next step after line editing, and it is a technical approach to content. Copy editors make sure the writing follows language rules and style guidelines so there is consistency and so the writer’s voice is maintained. 

Copy editors fix issues like:

  • grammar
  • spelling
  • punctuation
  • consistency

They research and verify facts and dates. They only rewrite when it is absolutely necessary, and only then it is as minimally as possible.

To learn more about what copy editors do, we have a blog post that goes into more detail about their specific tasks and what copyediting involves.

Differences Between Line Editing And Copyediting


The major difference between line editing and copyediting is that copyediting does not reorganize text. That is a line editor’s job. And when it comes to rewriting, a copy editor rewrites a minimal amount of text only if necessary. 

It is important to note that if a copy editor has to change words or phrases, it is not for stylistic purposes. As mentioned above, that falls under line editing, which is why it is also called stylistic editing.

Line editing approaches content from a different perspective than copyediting . A line editor will look at a piece of content to determine its style and to make sure the language is clear and the flow is good. They will edit and rewrite to maintain a specific tone and to elevate the writer’s voice. 

Similarities Between Line Editing And Copyediting


Line editing and copyediting have a few things in common:

  • They both share a common goal of improving readability through their specific tasks. 
  • Each strive to maintain the writer’s style or a company’s voice.
  • They work with content at the sentence level.

Line editors and copy editors work on the same kind of content. They both edit:

  • Fiction and nonfiction print books and eBooks
  • Manuals 
  • Articles
  • Textbooks
  • Government documents 

Professional Training


To work as a line editor (aka stylistic editor or content editor) or copy editor, you do not need to have an English degree or any prior experience. However, professional editorial training is necessary. 

We believe that the more you know, the better you can decide what editorial skill is for you. That is why we have free intro courses that give you foundational training in both line editing and copyediting.

Line Editing 101 is our free 3-day email course that you can sign up for here.

Learn more about starting an editorial business copyediting in our free masterclass. Sign up to watch it now.

How Much Do Line Editors And Copy Editors Make?


There are different ways you can charge for line editing and copyediting services. You can charge:

  • By hour
  • With a flat rate per project
  • By word

Based on guidelines from various editors’ associations, line editors can make $46-$50 per hour. Copy editors can earn between $35-$60 per hour. Your rate can vary depending on what kind of industry you are in and the type of content you’re working with. For example, business content generally pays more than fiction.

Since line editors and copy editors both work closely with content line by line, they are able to do more than one type of editorial skill. It is common for line editors to do both line editing and copyediting for a project. The two skills together make an excellent editorial business model. This means that you can earn more money per project!

What Do You Think?


Which skill interests you? Line editing, copyediting, or both? Line editing is a blend of creativity and logic, and allows you to use your writing skills. Copyediting draws on your attention to detail and ability to follow—and break—language rules. An editorial business can focus on just one skill or both. Whichever one appeals to you, a love of words and reading is a great jumping off point.  

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