The 5 Most Popular Types of Professional Editing

Whatever your publishing goals are, an investment in professional editing will be one of the most important steps to achieving success as an author. Editors work as professional readers, thinking critically to give you an objective perspective on your work before publication, and encouraging you to polish your work to its absolute peak potential. An investment in professional editing speaks to the seriousness of an author; a clean, error-free manuscript is the most effective endorsement you can give yourself as a writer.

Throughout the writing process, you will have become so close to the writing that it will be near impossible for you to catch every single typo or misplaced comma. You can rest easy in the knowledge that this comes hand-in-hand with the writing life. Editors exist to give you a critical outside perspective on your work before it's exposed to the harsh realities of the marketplace.

There are many different levels of editing, and different names for all of them. Familiarize yourself with the most popular editing services in the self-publishing industry:

Editor's Manuscript Evaluation

This 3-5 page report will assess your manuscript, analyse its strengths and weaknesses, suggest improvements, and recommend the best course of action to increase the appeal of your book in the marketplace. If the editor recommends further editing, the evaluation will include examples of errors that would be addressed and suggestions on the level of editing most appropriate for the manuscript, as well as structural issues to be addressed on your end before the editor begins work. This evaluation is an opportunity for you to receive structured feedback on your work from a professional editor, active in the publishing industry, before you release the book. 

Content Editing

Also called stylistic, developmental, or structural editing, content editing will effectively clarify and reorganize a manuscript for content and structure. It will ask questions to clarify meaning, eliminate jargon, and polish the language overall. For fiction, content editing involves addressing character/plot development, pacing, flow, and the overall structure of the manuscript. For nonfiction, it involves monitoring consistency of information, structure and organization, use of visual aids, and flow of ideas as well as fact-checking and verifying citations. This level of editing addresses all of the above, as well as any mechanical issues in spelling, grammar, punctuation, and syntax.

Copy Editing

An absolute necessity for every manuscript before publication, copy editing addresses purely mechanical issues in the writing. Sometimes called line editing, this level of editing will correct grammar, usage, spelling, punctuation, and other mechanics of style.

Complex Copy Editing

Complex copy editing addresses the same types of errors as standard copy editing, only at a higher level. It is intended for manuscripts that require extensive alterations to the language and writing mechanics. This level of editing involves more in-depth changes and extensive syntax correction for readability. It is best suited to writers for whom English is not their primary language, works translated to English from another language, or for manuscripts that contain two or more languages (e.g., English and French, or English, French and Italian). It does not include editing text in any language other than English.


There are different meanings for the term 'proofreading' in the industry. Often, this level of editing occurs after your design and layout is complete, and is meant to address any lingering mechanical errors, note any formatting issues in the design, and generally just sweep the layout for any inconsistencies. Sometimes (as we offer it at FriesenPress) it is meant as a final pass before layout. It includes, but is not limited to, correcting erroneous cross-references, looking for and correcting missing words, correcting misspellings, and correcting improper grammar. A proofread can be completed only as a  final pass after more extensive editing has been performed.

In summary, the importance of professional editing cannot be overstated. Feedback from a professional editor will not only better your chances of commercial success, it will encourage and develop your writing to help you grow as an author. If you are serious about achieving success as a published author, consider doing your research on the editing services available to you and working with an editor through the writing process. Finally, remember that while an editor will offer you their objective perspective, in the end, it's your story – and the final voice will be yours.

Image c/o Shutterstock