What’s the Difference Between Proofreading, Copyediting, and Substantive Line Editing? by PN Waldygo

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BooksEntering the world of book publishing may seem like a daunting task. Yet before you take this step, your manuscript needs to be as good as it can be. Seeking the services of an editor is essential, unless your book has already been accepted by a large publisher (in which case, the publisher will usually edit the book in-house). Most small publishers expect authors to have their books professionally edited before submission.

An editor will work with you to:

    Emphasize your own unique voice, cut away the “deadwood,” and use language that will appeal to your target audience. Ensure that your words are clear, concise, and accurate in conveying your message. Focus not only on the details but on the macrocosmic view, occasionally even rearranging sections for better flow and understanding.

How Heavy an Edit Does Your Book Need?

Authors aren’t always the best judge of this. They are often too immersed in the work to see the big picture. Once they are presented with specific changes made by an editor, however, they usually notice whether the manuscript has improved. Ideally, authors should seek out several editors who offer free sample edits of a small section of the manuscript. Then it’s easy to compare the results and choose an editor based on the sample.

An editor can perform the following tasks:

Proofreading: A proofreader provides a final check of the electronic file for minor mistakes in spelling, punctuation, spacing, and so on, before the manuscript, article, ad copy, or web content is published.

Simple Copyediting: For a light to medium copyedit, the copy editor will correct grammar, spelling, punctuation, capitalization, and problems with syntax; will ensure that singular pronouns represent singular nouns and plural pronouns, plural nouns; will put the work in proper manuscript format; will standardize notes, bibliographies, and reference lists; and will make style decisions based on the Chicago Manual of Style (regarding punctuation, source citations, numbers, capitalization, Latin abbreviations, foreign words, quotations, etc., etc., ad infinitum). The copy editor will take care of endless details that most authors are unaware of but publishers are passionate about.

Substantive Line Editing and Heavy Editing: This can verge on an almost total rewrite of the book, but it usually proceeds on an incremental, detail-oriented level. In addition to performing the tasks of simple copy editing, a good editor takes an active role in initiating changes. In a heavy edit, sentences will be polished and reworded to improve clarity and flow and to get rid of repetition, clumsy wording, an overuse of passive voice, and convoluted sentence structure. Facts are checked and corrected, sections may be rearranged if necessary, and subheads and chapter titles might be reworked to make them catchier, funnier, or more dramatic. If, in their writing, authors occasionally become argumentative, cite personal theories as facts, use too much slang where it is inappropriate, or have a blind spot about when their tone is no longer “reader-friendly,” a good editor will make suggestions to remedy these problems. In numerous ways, an experienced editor will point out problems the author has overlooked and will help authors find their voice, refine their vision, and bring their manuscripts to a more perfect state.

(c) Copyright – P.N. Waldygo. All Rights Reserved Worldwide.

P. N. WaldygoAuthor Information: P.N. Waldygo, a professional book editor for 17 years, has edited more than 500 nonfiction books for traditional publishers and private authors on almost every subject under the sun. For more information on book and manuscript editing, visit Desert Sage Editorial Services.

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