Saturday Aug 13, 2022

What does it mean to edit a document?

It’s no wonder that authors are often unsure what editing services they need for their document or manuscript. The term editing seems to be used interchangeably to mean copyediting, proofreading, substantive editing, content editing, and technical editing. So what does it mean to edit a document?

Defined editing

A simple definition of editing is enhancing text of some kind, whether it’s published for millions or for a college class. Editing services aim to ensure that the copy is well written, of high quality, and free of errors. Publishing as a service is important for a variety of copy types. It may appear online as a blog or article, in a newspaper or newspaper, as an advertisement or poster, or as an entire book.

There are several types of manuscript manipulation techniques that require understanding to fully understand where editing is within the publishing process. Related services that we will cover are copyediting, substantive editing, and proofreading.

Copy editing

Copyeditors often provide line-by-line or sentence-by-sentence editing services. This means that they will make suggestions for sentence structure, flow, and word choice and correct any mistakes they find in grammar, spelling, or punctuation. They will verify the format and alignment with applicable style guides, such as the Chicago Manual of Style or the American Psychological Association (APA) style. These style guides are especially particular about references and citation lists in academic or technical papers.

Proofreading generally does not include providing suggestions for the style and consistency of the entire document, especially if it is a book. Copyediting focuses more on each sentence, word, and paragraph. Copyeditors sometimes communicate with authors, but often they don’t.

Substantive editing

Substantive editing, also known as developmental editing, addresses the organization of ideas within a document and delves into the meaning and tone for the intended audience that copyediting. A substantive editor will pay attention to how ideas are organized, phrased, and legible.

Essay or noun editors will also pay attention to consistency of tone, language, and word usage throughout the document. They may or may not be responsible for correcting grammar or spelling errors, as their focus is on the complete presentation of the text.


Proofreading can be thought of as the “shallow” type of editing. Proofreaders look for typos and mistakes in text that has already been edited. Your job is to catch whatever the editor or copyeditor missed. They don’t pay attention to global issues or tone.

Editing and proofreading, unlike proofreading, can include grammar, punctuation, sentence structure, style, consistency, word choice, tone, paragraph length, and much more. Often times when people say “edit,” they mean a deeper substantive or developmental edit. Sometimes, however, “edit” is used to refer to proofreading.

That is why it is always a good idea to clarify if you are not sure what type of service you need for your document, or if you have been asked to edit something. A simple clarifying answer will reveal whether the document needs to be scanned for errors or whether it needs to be reworked to improve the quality of the writing.

Working with an editor is always a good idea for school assignments; online publications such as blogs, newsletters or articles; important emails; copy of the website; or self-published books. Each project will differ in its development editing or proofreading needs. Therefore, it is important to consider how deeply the text needs to be revised to achieve the end goal of communicating with the intended audience.

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