A reader recently asked me to explain the different types of editors available to help her with her book. Although I have mentioned several types of editing services on my FAQs page, I thought I’d delve into the subject a bit more deeply here—after all, I’m always happy to oblige my readers!
The four basic types of editors are developmental, substantive, copy, and proofreaders.
Developmental editors help writers with the overall structure of their content, including content creation, organization, tone of voice, and character development (when applicable). Developmental editors are concerned with the material as a whole rather than specific grammatical issues.
Copy editors identify grammar issues, punctuation errors, and other problems such as awkward phrasing and inconsistent language. Copy editors sometimes provide minor rephrasing or light rewriting. (Have you noticed that copy editor sometimes appears as copyeditor? Check out “Am I a Copyeditor or a Copy Editor” for an explanation of the different spellings.)
Substantive editors (also called content or line editors) go a step further than copy editors to address clarity and style. Substantive editors perform moderate rephrasing at the sentence level all the way up to major rewrites of entire paragraphs, sections, or chapters.
Proofreaders find formatting and grammatical errors in finished documents. Proofreaders are the last line of (typo) defense before a document goes to print or web publication.
Please note that many editors call themselves “copy editors” but offer a combination of services, not just copyediting. I, personally, focus on substantive editing, copyediting, and proofreading—and refer to myself as a copy editor on my website, business card, and social media profiles. In addition, most editors fulfill different roles for different projects: I may serve as a substantive editor on one project while proofreading another.
In addition, you may also run across titles such as managing editor, acquisitions editor, production editor, and editor in chief. I didn’t include these job titles in this post because the individuals holding these titles are generally involved with project and staff management rather than editing. Plus, these individuals usually hold in-house positions at publishing houses and news agencies instead of operating as freelancers or independent contractors.
In my next post, we’ll discuss the process of actually locating and hiring an editor who meets your specific needs—quite a task, indeed!