effective editing: it’s not terminal or is it?

I am so thrilled to be able to share with you about my favorite topic: editing. Yes, I’m a geek to the major level, I love words! Sculpting an excellent sentence, crafting paragraphs and molding manuscripts is a type of puzzle to me. And I hope some of my passion will pass through these posts over the next few weeks. Maybe you too, will love to edit your work, instead of sighing heavily and secretly wishing you had a root canal appointment. Whether you are editing a poem, short story, novel or nonfiction magazine article, my goal is to clear away creepy cobwebs from all those dark corners, shedding light and life for you to use as you edit your work. Each week we’ll move through an important editing skill. This week it’s the basics.

The first thing I’d like to do is get the definitions out there so we can all be on the same page. Revision, editing, and rewriting have all been used as interchangeable terms but they are different. Editing is the top of the pyramid, if you were to draw the hierarchy or a family tree, it’s the papa, the last name all of them use. This is what it would look like: 

The graphic is poor quality on purpose, for it is one I use as a handout and I don’t want peeps snagging it…they can make their own. 😉

Developmental/Project Editing – Co-ordinating and editing a project from proposal or rough manuscript to final manuscript, incorporating input from authors, consultants, or reviewers. May include: budgeting, design supervision, hiring, production co-ordination.

Rewriting – Creating a new manuscript or parts of a manuscript on the basis of content and research supplied by Author. May include: research, writing original material.

Developmental/Project Editing and Rewriting are considered equal in terms of time, vary with projects and may overlap which is why I lumped them together.

Substantive/Structural Editing. Clarifying or reorganizing a manuscript for content and structure. May include: research, writing original material, negotiating changes with Author.

Stylistic Editing. Clarifying meaning, eliminating jargon, polishing language, and other non-mechanical line-by-line editing. May include the following: checking or correcting  reading level, creating or recasting tables or figures, negotiating changes with Author.

Substantive/Structural Editing and Stylistic Editing are in a category together because they both consist of clarifying or correcting on a large scale.

Proofreading. Checking proofs of formatted, edited material for adherence to design and for minor, mechanical errors in copy (such as spelling mistakes or small deviations from style sheet). Does not include the following unless specified:

• incorporating or exercising discretion on Author’s alterations

• copyfitting

• checking accuracy of running heads and folios

• checking page breaks• inserting or checking page numbers to contents and page references

• marking color breaks

• flagging or checking location of art

Notes: The agreement should specify whether proofs are to be read in isolation or “to copy” and whether a style sheet will be provided. It should also specify whether proofs are first, second (or subsequent), or final pages.

“Proofreading” is often loosely used to include copy editing and other tasks. It is not so used in this agreement. These other tasks must be specified.

Copy Editing. Editing for grammar, usage, spelling, punctuation, and other mechanics of style; checking for consistency of mechanics and for internal consistency of facts; inserting head levels and approximate placement of art; editing tables, figures, and lists; notifying Designer of any unusual production requirements. Does not include the following unless specified:

• providing or editing art manuscript

• providing or changing system of citations

• editing index

• writing or editing captions or credit lines

• writing running heads• obtaining or listing permissions needed

• providing front matter (prelims), cover copy, or CIP data

• editing preface or foreword

• negotiating changes with Author

• seeking approvals from clients’ representatives

Notes: The agreement should specify whether changes are to be made to hard copy, to the electronic manuscript, or to both. “Copy editing” is often loosely used to include stylistic and even structural editing, fact checking, and mark-up. It is not so used in this agreement. These other tasks must be specified.

Fact Checking/Citation Checking/Reference Checking. Checking accuracy of facts and quotes by reference to original sources used by Author or to other reference sources.

In this Etc. category is Indexing, Mark-Up/Electronic Coding/Tagging, Picture Research, Permissions, Production  Co-ordination, and Desktop Publishing (formatting documents for e-publication). 

Those are terms from my contract, and they’re pretty thorough. But they don’t usually apply to how we look at our own work. In the next segment, I’ll share how a writer breaks these down, applying them to each draft, landing a stronger piece.

Read the rules for the editing giveaway…

Until next Friday…namaste 🙂

the series:

effective editing series intro

effective editing: ABCs and 123s

effective editing: A is for Action

effective editing: The Bs have it

effective editing: What do you C?

effective editing: One Disguise

effective editing: Two – Rhythm and Reason


  1. Hi Roxie. I may be in big trouble for saying this. If I am…smack my wrist!! I agree with your post totally for any business work ie. technical writing, ghost writing, advertising and so on. But for fiction, autobiography, gardening, theatre etc. I believe that editing, rewrites etc. tear the soul out of the original work. Okay it may be a rough diamond to the eyes of the publishers but with all the changes made it becomes somebody else’s work. I feel that publishers kill individuality, newness and rawness that readers are losing. Shakespeare would never have got past the first post nowadays. All the old famous writers did not have the corporate publishers to deal with. Their writing was their truth. Their way of expression. Their style. Their individuality. Their soul……. Whew!! Well, I hope you know what I mean.
    Wrist is out stretched ! Take care Roxie. Ralph

    1. I think it is up to the author to decide at what point the manuscript is no longer theirs. You don’t have to take everything an editor says. But if editor/agnet/publishing house doesn’t want the book then, you again can make a decision.

      1. Anne,
        Yes, that’s very true, and it is the job of the editor to keep the voice of the author alive and in mind when making suggestions. Which doesn’t always happen.

        1. I think that is why any author wants to find an editor who will understand where the author is coming from, and they can make a great “team”.

          1. Yes! An editor strives to find that working relationship and reminds the writer that they are a team! The ‘coach’ if you will, to guide and assist, championing the best out of the work. (Going to use this analogy in upcoming stuff, LOL.)

    2. Never, ever in trouble for speaking your mind, Ralph. You make an excellent point! Yes I know exactly what you mean. Many times editing can tear the soul out of a piece. It’s my goal with this series to assist writers, keeping their voices alive, the heart of the piece in tact, and coming out on the other side with a strong piece. Whether they desire to edit based on someone else’s suggestions comes after that. I hope you stay with me and keep me on task, I want to make sure I’m hitting those goals!
      namaste 😉

      1. I would like to thank both of you, Anne and Roxie, for your replies which I have taken to heart. You have no need for me to keep you on task Roxie, but if something does happen to arise, if I may, I would like to jump in again. 😀

  2. I was the founder and publisher of a national high-end magazine that focused on the personal stories and interests of top real estate brokers and agents. The most challenging part for us was getting to the “meat” of the story and making sure that it would grab the interest of our readers, who frankly, don’t read a lot. Even with professional writers, we ended up making many edits with input from a variety of people. The end result was always better than the first draft.

    Someone once said” There is no good writing only good rewriting. I love editors!!!

    1. Thanks for stopping by Anne! And it was a pleasure to meet you today! How fortunate for you, yes, it is very challenging to pair the writer and the assignment, and I agree, editing makes or breaks the piece. namaste 🙂

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