Writing a book is a daunting process. But it doesn’t stop there. The beauty of the writing is truly brought out in the editing process. This is where each and every flaw in rectified and the manuscript is polished to perfection. Each piece of literary work—whether it be fiction, nonfiction or poetry—has a purpose for its existence. A work can be classified as a great work only if it conveys what the author wants to tell. The editing process is nuanced and allows a manuscript to become more coherent, clear and also of top quality.

In contemporary times, editors have embraced digital editing methods, abandoning the traditional practice of marking symbols on hardcopies, sending them for inspection, and reprinting revised versions. The utilization of diverse software for digital editing has significantly enhanced efficiency within the publishing industry.

Across multiple style guides and publishing houses, the basic editing process is of 4 stages – developmental editing, line editing, copy editing and proofreading. Even if the author chooses to edit the manuscript on their own, working in this particular order makes the editing process much more efficient. Before starting the editing process, make sure your draft is complete.

The Editing Journey —
  1. Developmental editing: shaping the narrative
  • Firstly, developmental editing does an overall edit focussing on the structure and narrative. The editor ensures that the purpose of the text is effectively communicated to the target audience throughout the work. This is the time when the editor checks if each paragraph flows into the next seamlessly. Any major changes to the content such as deletion and addition of sentences, reordering of paragraphs and rewriting unclear segments happen in this stage.


  • At this stage, the editor needs to check for accuracy by verifying the facts when it comes to articles or nonfiction. There is no requirement to fact-check when a fictitious work is being edited. However, during the initial stage of editing, the plot and subplots need a thorough check. There is an extensive need to make the characters as real as possible in order to make them universal and relatable. Each arc in the story needs to seamlessly interweave, allowing the reader to delve into an alternate world. This won’t be possible if they are distracted by gaps in the plot.


  • After the completion of content editing, the editor and author have a sit down to discuss the changes. Normally, there would be some disagreements at this stage but it is essential that they work hand in hand to produce a satisfactory piece of work.


  • The developmental editing stage is not only to enhance the quality of text but more importantly, it makes sure that the author and publisher do not get into any legal confrontations. This is the time when any permissions that need to be taken from the owner of quoted texts, pictures or videos used in the article are taken. Omitting this step will lead to copyright violations and ultimately end up with a lot of legal proceedings post-publishing. Seeking clearance is tiresome but a very necessary step while starting to edit work.


  • According to the circumstance, a writer may choose to omit a particular quote or reference. Hence, acquiring the permissions early in the writing or at least the editing process will give a clearer idea of what content to delete and what to retain. The editor must also judge if the text will need legal vetting and should proceed to hire a private lawyer or an in-house lawyer to make sure the legalities of publishing are taken care of.


  1. Line editing: enhancing content
  • The next stage is line editing, which is also known as stylistic editing. Often, this stage overlaps with the first as the editor makes changes to the most obvious errors. Here, it is the editor’s job to correct errors regarding style, syntax, sentence structure and choice of words. The editor works to give the text readability and fluidity. This stage can include transposition of words in a sentence, deletion or addition of words, rewriting at a sentence level and also correct inclusion of transition words to make the text clearer.


  • Apart from clarity, the usage of terminology is scrutinised here. This is because the choice of words must be in relation to the target audience. For example, if an article is a scientific one, it most probably addresses people who have knowledge of the subject or are deeply interested. Hence, the usage of jargon would be appropriate. On the contrary, using jargon in an article that seeks to inform ordinary people with no prior knowledge about it defeats the purpose. Additionally, there must be logic maintained throughout the text. Hence, line editing seeks to improve the tone and clarity of the work.


  1. Copy editing: ensuring accuracy
  • Next in the editorial process is copy editing, where the technical aspects such as grammar, punctuation and spelling errors are rectified. The goal is to make sure that the text is free from errors and inconsistencies. A small mistake can imply a lack of professionalism and can often dissuade a reader from progressing through the text. It is most often inconsistencies in the text that distract the reader from the purpose.


  • A copy editor makes sure that there are no repetitions and that the timeline makes sense. While copy editors are not fact checkers, they do verify any inconsistency and catch factual errors. Additionally, they look for spelling nuances and correct usage of capitalisation, italicising, hyphenation, etc. This is done according to the author’s preference as well as the style guide of the publisher.


  • A copy editor must have a universal dictionary and a style manual and work on the text according to the rules only. Usage of the same guide will ensure that there is no possibility of inconsistencies.


  1. Proofreading: final polish
  • Finally, any literary work undergoing an editing process is proofread. This is the last scrutiny of the text to make it polished and top-notch before it gets published. Essentially, a proofreader tries to remove any errors that have been previously missed in the editing process. In addition to this, this stage involves spacing, formatting and typesetting according to the house guidelines and also the nature of the text. Low-level errors such as headers and page numbers are corrected.


  • This is the point where the work is fine-tuned before it is published. A typesetter or a compositor produces the first round of galleys, also known as first pass pages. This allows the author and editor to view the literary work from a fresh perspective and catch any remaining errors. If any errors are found, it is revised and once again sent for production. This is repeated until the work is spotless.


In conclusion, editing is a crucial step in publishing any work because it enhances the accuracy, readability and quality of the text while enabling the intended message from the writer to resonate with the audience. Editing requires patience and a key eye for detail. When one truly embraces the editing process, there is room for improvement. The manuscript can then be transformed into a polished masterpiece

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