What Are The Different Types Of Editing?

When you have an editorial business, there are different types of editing you can offer your clients. Do you want to focus on one skill or have a full range of services? While proofreading and copyediting are the foundational skills for any editorial business, there are four main types of editing in the industry: proofreading, copyediting, line editing, and developmental editing. Keep reading to learn more about the different types of editing — maybe you’ll discover one or more that appeal to you! 

What are the different types of editing?

The Different Types Of Editing


Proofreading is the last step of the publishing process. A proofreader’s job is to check the final draft of text to make sure there are no mistakes in spelling, grammar, word use, and punctuation. It’s considered the easiest form of editing because it focuses only on surface checks. There is no rewriting or reorganization of text involved.

There is a misconception that to proofread, you need to be a grammar cop. That’s not true! Proofreaders do not approach a piece of content with a red pencil ready to cut everything out. We are not living in Victorian England, so there’s no need to follow irrelevant rules. If a client starts a sentence with “And” or “But”, that is acceptable. When proofreading, you have to know when to leave things alone.


Copyediting is a step up from proofreading, and it shares some tasks like fixing spelling and punctuation. However, copyediting goes beyond a surface check, and is a deeper look at technical issues in content. Copy editors look at consistency, grammar, and style. They also do a lot of research to validate facts and information presented in content, and they develop a style guide for proofreaders to follow.

There’s also a fine line that copy editors walk. While you want to fix errors in language, including grammar and spelling, it’s important to maintain a writer’s style and voice. Like proofreading, copyediting does not involve rewriting or reorganization of text; however, it is done when absolutely necessary. 

Copyediting also pays more than proofreading. I always say that if you can learn proofreading, then you can spend some extra time and effort to learn copyediting. It will pay off and set you up for more jobs and success in the long term.

If you enjoy spotting typos and fixing them, proofreading and copyediting would be a great fit for you. I have a free masterclass that’ll show you how to start working as a proofreader and copy editor, even if you have zero previous experience. 

Line Editing

Have you ever come across a sentence and thought to yourself that you would have written it differently, maybe even better or in a clearer way? If you like to rewrite sentences and paragraphs to make writing clearer, then line editing is for you.  

Line editing is the next step up from copyediting, and doesn’t focus on details like spelling or punctuation. Instead, a line editor focuses on style and the effectiveness of the words used, particularly at the sentence and paragraph level. They strive to bring clarity to the story or message by addressing issues in flow, pacing, repetition, and language. 

And of course, this is done while also preserving the writer’s voice. That’s why line editing is also called stylistic editing. It involves going through content line by line with a close look at the writer’s use of words and making adjustments to maintain good, logical flow and pacing. The goal is to elevate the writer’s style and intent of the content, which can contribute greatly to the success of a book.

Even though line editing is a higher-level approach to content than copyediting, it does share some tasks, like an attention to detail and consistency. It’s a great skill to learn if you want the ability to rewrite text and add another editorial service to your existing business.

If you want to learn more about what line editing involves, I’m developing a course that will show you how to work on all kinds of content at that level. You can sign up to be notified when the course presale is open by joining the waitlist below.

Developmental Editing

Developmental editing is also known as structural or substantive editing, and this is the initial phase of the editing process. It is applicable to books and other kinds of content, including digital content, and can also be referred to as content editing. You’ll discover that there are many possible terms for this kind of edit, but I’ll call it developmental editing for the sake of simplicity. 

Of all the different types of editing, this is the one with the most room for creativity. After a book or content piece has been written, a developmental editor will look at the overall project in order to get a big picture view. They look to see how the story and its various components work together to convey the story or message.

This is the phase of editing where you can rewrite, reorganize, cut out, add in, and do what is necessary in order to make a story shine — including writing. I’ve seen many manuscripts where the developmental editor has crossed out sentences or paragraphs and written in what they think elevates the story best. 

Keep in mind that while this level of editing has more “artistic freedom”, changes are only done within the parameters of the writer’s style. Remember, the number one rule that all the different types of editing follow is this: Preserve the writer’s voice. Always.

For fiction, developmental editors also look at character development, strengths and weaknesses in the plot, and make or suggest changes in order to improve the theme of the story. They will also determine what needs to be expanded on, and what can be left out.


While that was a quick overview of the different types of editing, you can see there are various ways in which you can work with words. You can focus on the technical side, like proofreading and copyediting, or you can choose to work with content at a higher, more creative level with line editing or developmental editing. Whatever you choose, the more skills you have, the more you can grow your business.

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