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What are the different levels of editing?

A lot of clients are surprised to learn that there are different levels of editing available. An editor can be contracted to provide a range of editorial tasks depending on the state the document is in. For example, if a piece of writing is just about to be published, a complete overhaul of the manuscript would not be very productive, nor would a light edit for grammar or spelling be useful to a writer who is seeking assistance with developing a storyline or coherent flow to their document. Whether you are looking for plain language rewriting, substantive/structural editing, copy editing or proofreading, the following descriptions will help you understand the range of editing services available and which ones best suit your needs.

Plain language rewrite
Plain language rewriting is a rework of your document to ensure that it is suited to your intended audience. Typically, this means making sure that the document is clear and concise. It also includes removing any unnecessary words, jargon or technical terms. Plain language rewriting is ideal where you have technically dense information, or text that has been authored to a particular in-house standard (academic, legal, medical), that needs to relate to a lay audience.

Substantive/structural edit
Substantive or structural editing examines the overall coherence, structure and content of the document. An editor reviews the work and evaluates its logical structure, whether or not there are developmental holes in the text, and if the headings or chapter titles correspond well with the overall message. Ensuring that the entire document flows well and that the tone and voice are consistent throughout, this level of editing may involve recommending removing, adding or moving certain sections. Depending on what the author has requested, it may also include rewriting some of the text itself.
Copy edit
Once a substantive or structural edit is complete, copy editing is performed. Copy editing refers to a detailed review of the text prior to typesetting, and is a thorough investigation for diction, spelling, grammar, punctuation and stylistic errors. Depending on the type of document, copy editing can include some or all of the following elements:

• Cross-referencing details, headings, titles and images for accuracy and consistency
• Checking for sentence structure and construction
• Ensuring that the text/word choice is accurate and not repetitive
• Making sure that referencing is completed accurately and thoroughly
• Making sure that reading level, style, and tone are appropriate for the intended reader
• Providing a ‘single voice’ and flow throughout a multi-authored work
• Compiling an editorial checklist and style sheet to provide a thorough overview of the editor’s findings.

Unlike substantive/structural editing, copy editing does not involve rewriting, rearranging, or the addition or deletion of sections to improve the development and flow of the text. It’s a comprehensive edit providing observations and making detailed suggestions to ensure the document is error free while leaving the overall content and structure intact.

Formatting ensures the document is visually clean and easy to read – it’s the visual equivalent to plain language rewriting. An editor can ensure that the formatting is accurate, consistent, and applicable to the nature of the document. This service that can be included as part of a copy edit, but as there are varying levels, it is best to discuss your specific formatting needs with your editor.

Proofreading is the final review once the document has been laid out by a graphic designer. It is usually supplied as a PDF to the proofreader who ensures that no mistake has been overlooked prior to publication, whether for print or online. This includes checking for visual errors such as:

• widows – where the last line of a paragraph is on a separate page
• orphans – where the first line of a paragraph is on a separate page
• rivers – an area of white space running through text, created by word spacing.

Whatever the level of editorial assistance you require, be sure to understand the different services available, and discuss your needs with your editor in order to best use their skillset and range of services to your advantage.

If you need more information, call Mike Holland on 0414 394 440 or email me:
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