Everything You Need To Know About Line Editing

In this blog post, you’ll learn everything you need to know about line editing. You’ll discover what line editing is, how it differs from other editorial skills, what line editors do, and how you can become an editor without any previous experience. If you’ve always wanted to work as an editor and have more creative input into the content you work with, keep reading.

What Is Line Editing?

Have you ever read a sentence and thought to yourself that it could have been written better? Maybe it was too wordy or the flow was really bad, which made it hard to read? Or maybe the sentence itself wasn’t even necessary? Well, line editing deals with all of those issues.

It is my favourite skill because it allows me to be creative and to elevate the writer’s voice. I also find it fun to do things like delete redundancies, replace repetitive words, and tighten up sentences through rewriting.

Line editing is also known as Stylistic Editing because of the focus on preserving and elevating the writer’s style. It does not focus on structure, plot development, or characterization like developmental editing does. However, it does work to preserve and refine the content of the story or message.

What do line editors do?

Line editors work with content at the sentence and paragraph levels. They edit for:

  • tone
  • flow
  • clarity
  • language 

Line editing looks at how all of those things work together to deliver the message or story. Line editors go through content line by line to ensure the meaning of each sentence is clear. They also look at how sentences in a paragraph work together to convey a message. 

If there is an issue that makes a sentence or paragraph difficult to understand, or there is bad flow or word use, then a line editor makes adjustments so the reads better and connects with the reader. 

But even though line editors have the power to rewrite sentences, and delete and change words, that doesn’t mean they do it ruthlessly. A good line editor will know when to change text and when to leave it alone; they always prioritize the writer’s voice.

In fact, line editors play an important part in shaping the writer’s voice by making sure that their message or story is perceived by the audience as the writer intended.

Here’s an example of how a line editor corrects a sentence that is difficult to read:

Shay was very excited to spend the day in the sun with her magazines and snacks, and soaking in the sun.

A line editor’s correction may look like: 

Shay was excited to spend the day soaking in the sun with her magazines and snacks.

As you can see, line editors delete redundant words and phrases. The meaning and flow of the sentence is clearer and the tone has been maintained.

How Line Editing Is Different From Copyediting And Proofreading

In the editorial and content industries, “editing” refers to making judgements and changes to the content to improve the message, purpose, and genre expectations. Line editing and developmental editing are editing skills that involve creativity. Editors have the freedom and power to make the best choices for the content. 

Line editing comes before copyediting, and is a completely different skill from copyediting and proofreading. In book publishing, copyediting and proofreading are considered part of the production process because they deal with technical issues. Copy editors and proofreaders have no creative input into the content they work on.

Copyediting and proofreading both work with content on a technical level without making unnecessary changes to a sentence or paragraph. They do not rewrite or delete text if it is not a technical error. Doing so is outside of the scope of copyediting and proofreading. 

Line Editing Vs. Copyediting

Line editing does have a couple similarities to copyediting, and that is both skills take a close look at language at the sentence level, and they both require an attention to detail. However, that is where the similarities end.

Unlike line editing, copyediting is a technical approach to content. It is concerned with making 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, and consistency. They do research and verify facts and dates. They only rewrite when it is absolutely necessary, and only then it is as minimally as possible.

Since line editors 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.

Line Editing Vs. Proofreading

There are no similarities between line editing and proofreading. Proofreading is concerned only with fixing technical issues like spelling, punctuation, and formatting at the surface level. Proofreaders follow style guides to maintain the writer’s voice, and they do not rewrite or rearrange text.

How You Can Start Line Editing

While you do not need an English degree to start line editing, you must be trained. There are specific issues that line editors correct, as well as industry best practices to follow for both fiction and nonfiction. Line editing is not a skill that you can take on without training or guidance. 

It is also not as simple as rewriting to make sentences read better. Rewriting a client’s words is a big responsibility to take on, and line editors work within strict boundaries. A good line editor never rewrites content unnecessarily or just to make it read better — there is always a reason.

If you’re ready to start working as an editor and want to learn more about acquiring the skills to become a line editor, we have a professional training program that is accepting new students. 

The Art of Line Editing prepares you to work as a line editor for all kinds of content, including fiction books, and gives you marketing strategies and templates to grow your business and clientele.

Having A Niche As A Line Editor

Sometimes job postings and potential clients ask for a degree or a background in a specific field based on their own criteria. For example, an engineering firm may ask for candidates to have a degree in mechanical engineering in order to edit their company reports. This allows them to guarantee their content meets reader expectations and that an editor makes the best decisions for their content.

If you do have a degree, diploma, accreditation, or expertise in a specific field, then you can draw on that to position yourself as an editor within that niche. 

For example, if you are a teacher, then you have expertise and experience in education. You can then present yourself as an editor for educational content. Companies, writers, and entrepreneurs within that space will likely give you more consideration than someone who doesn’t have any experience in education. They’ll trust someone who understands their industry terms, language, and reader expectations over someone who doesn’t.

Types Of Content You Can Edit

Line editors work on all kinds of content for various industries. Here are some examples of what you can edit:

  • Print books
  • eBooks
  • Textbooks
  • Magazine and journal articles
  • Manuals
  • Marketing material 
  • Blogs
  • Online courses
  • Press releases
  • Cookbooks
  • Product descriptions
  • Business communications
  • Websites
  • Government documents

Resources For Line Editing

#1 Intuition

Line editors do not use as many resources as copy editors and proofreaders do. Since it is an editing skill that involves creativity, one of the best resources you can have is your intuition.

What does that mean? It means you have a strong grasp of the methodology behind line editing that you can recognize when something needs to be changed.

#2 Thesaurus

A thesaurus is to help you fix repetition issues and instances when you need to correct word use to maintain the specific tone and language of the message.

#3 The Client

Unlike copyediting and proofreading that requires you to find solutions in books and other resources, line editing requires you to communicate with clients for issues you can’t solve on your own. 

For most issues, you can’t write a query in the document and wait for the client to address it. Since line editors work with clarity, messaging and language, they are all connected, and being held up by an issue can put a pause on editing.


I hope you enjoyed learning everything you need to know about line editing! Line editing is a skill that is becoming more in demand due to the rise in content creation and books being published. Writers and content creators want their voices and stories to shine and stand out, and line editors, as you saw above, bring a unique skill to the table. What do you think? Is line editing something you’d like to pursue? Let us know in the comments!

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2 thoughts on “Everything You Need To Know About Line Editing”

  1. I am on the verge of hiring a young editor. He has made a sample Line Edit on the first chapter of my book has and edited out almost 49% of my original work. Is this normal or am I just a bad writer?

    1. Hi Stephen. Line editors only focus on editing sentences and phrases. They do not restructure or delete entire sections; that is a developmental editor’s job. When working with an editor, it is important to always set the boundaries of what the project will require.

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