Difference Between Line Editing, Copyediting, and Developmental Editing

[Approximate Reading Time : 4 mins]

A book is a dream that you hold in your hand – Neil Gaiman

Or, in today’s world, an e-reader that you cherish! Irrespective of the manner in which you choose to read books, the fact is – a well-edited manuscript makes for pleasurable reading. It doesn’t matter how good your grasp of the language is or how well you write; getting a fresh pair of eyes to go through your manuscript will help weed out even the smallest mistakes and improve the reading quality of your work.

This is where professional editorial services come in handy. There are different types of editing services available with copy editing, line editing, and developmental editing being the most popularly used in book publishing USA. Your manuscript might require just one or maybe two or even all three of these services. In order to find out what editing services you will require, it is first essential to understand in detail what these three processes entail.

Line Editing

It can be quite easy to confuse line editing with copy editing. As the name suggests, this involves the editor taking a look at each line in the manuscript and scrutinizing each sentence. Here, the focus is on the choice of words, syntax, and the meaning of the sentence rather than technical aspects of writing. The editor will consider whether the words you have used do justice in conveying the intended meaning. Line editing can help weed out overuse of jargon while keeping the sentences short and crisp. The aim of line editing is to help your prose flow smoothly. So, if you say “They have lived for a long time in the same house”, a line editor is likely to correct it as “They have lived in the same house for a long time”.

Copy Editing

Copy editing ensures that the book makes for a flawless read. It helps polish the language used and eliminate common errors. Inconsistencies in spelling are extremely common, especially in current times, given the wide acceptance accorded to both UK and US English across the globe. So, if you have used the word ‘flavor’ in one place and ‘flavour’ elsewhere, the copyeditor will have to ensure that only one of these is used throughout. Besides inconsistencies in spelling and formatting, grammatical errors, inappropriate punctuation, and inaccuracies in sentence structure are some of the things that can be addressed with copyediting. Usually, a copyeditor will also have the responsibility of ensuring that your work is in keeping with an appropriate style guide – for instance, the Chicago Manual of Style.

Developmental Editing

The one major difference between developmental editing and copyediting or line editing is that it looks at the whole manuscript instead of looking at it in parts. The structure and content of the entire manuscript is what the editor focuses on. Developmental editing assumes significance especially in self-publishing because it gives first-time and indie authors insights on plot, setting, and characterization. The editor might provide inputs on how to flesh out a character some more so as to add a little extra dimension to the story and so on. Developmental editing can also help you avoid getting entangled in legal complexities due to issues such as plagiarism, libel, or missing permissions. A developmental editor will ensure that the manuscript is within the boundaries of social acceptability by identifying things that you may have overlooked. For instance, any gender or age bias that might have seeped into your writing will need to be addressed before publication. 

Line editing, copy editing, and developmental editing are all integral to the process of publishing, be it the traditional method or self-publishing. Seeking the assistance of an experienced editorial services organization can help you give your book the polished finish that it deserves. By enlisting help on the editing front, you also get to focus more on the actual publishing and marketing process.


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