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What is editing?

Editing involves carefully reviewing material before it is published, and suggesting or making changes to correct and improve it.
Three aspects, or levels, of editing are generally recognised – substantive editing, copyediting and proofreading.

  • Substantive editing (including, and sometimes called, structural editing) is assessing and shaping material to improve its organisation and content. It is editing to clarify meaning, improve flow and smooth language.
  • Copyediting is editing to ensure correctness, consistency, accuracy and completeness.
  • Proofreading is examining material after layout to correct errors in textual and visual elements.

Australian Standards for Editing Practice, second edition,
Institute of Professional Editors.

In addition, a professional editor can provide a broad range of valuable services, depending on your specific needs.

Manuscript assessment is often valuable before submitting your work to a publisher or agent. It entails:

  • reading the manuscript or a nominated section
  • advising on stylistic matters
  • considering its commercial potential
  • offering general advice on strengths, weaknesses and development.

Manuscript development helps to realise the potential of your work. An experienced editor can work with you to shape your manuscript:

  • clarifying the structure or plot
  • developing the appropriate voice and tone
  • refining your writing style.

Project and production management achieves the best job possible with the available time and resources. An editor as project manager can:

  • schedule and supervise all stages of publishing, including print production
  • ensure your work fulfills its purpose
  • keep the whole team on track
  • monitor your budget.