In this series we’re talking about the fascinating world of publishing—highly skewed toward the editorial side of things. Be sure to see my first post, The Publishing Process, and my second post, What is an Editor?
I wanted to write about Editing vs. Proofreading because they are two different (though related) things, but they get confused all the time. For example, a teacher might say, “Be sure to proofread your essay.” Or a someone might say, “I need to proofread my blog post before I publish it.” What they’re actually describing is copyediting, that really nitpicky going through for grammar and punctuation. So let’s talk about the different types of editing that happen by different types of editors at the various stages of the publishing process.
Editor: Acquisitions Editor and/or Development Editor
In development editing, your Development Editor (or DE as we like to call them) will go through the manuscript with a high-level view of things like organization, plot development (if your book is fiction), character development, consistency, and all things content-related. The DE isn’t going to worry about fixing grammar and punctuation because she or he knows that after this edit you’re still going to be making major changes to the manuscript.
Substantive Editing (or line editing)
Editor: Development Editor
This is an in-depth edit of your manuscript. The DE thoroughly assesses every detail, from lower-level plot details to the word order (syntax) of every sentence. This edit includes heavy content revision, and the DE may (will probably) suggest rewrites. At this stage, the DE won’t be looking at higher-level issues like organization, etc., because she/he will assume that those have already been covered and what you have now is not going to be changing in that way.
Editor: Copy Editor
Copyediting is a more basic edit of the manuscript. You know that all of the content makes sense and the writing is fairly good, but you want another eye to catch any mistakes in grammar and punctuation, as well as smooth out some rough sentences. The CE may make a note of any plot/content issues she or he thinks may exist, but s/he will rely on the author’s content knowledge and will assume that any higher-level issues have already been resolved.
Editor: Production Editor
After the manuscript has gone through all the stages above and we have word documents that are pretty much as perfect as they can get, we move to typesetting, where those word documents are put into a template for the interior (which decides things like the size of the margins, what the headers and subheadings will look like, the font, any colors used in the interior, etc.). The word document is made into a PDF with that template, and those PDFs are called “proofs.” In the fiction world, at this stage you might get “galleys,” printed versions of the un-proofread proofs. At this point, the PE reads the proofs (hence proofreading) to make sure that everything was converted correctly from Word to PDF, that any pictures or images look good, and to once more make sure that there are no minor mistakes in spelling/grammar. The PE does not at all concern him/herself with the content, but if s/he notices anything may make a note to the Acquisitions Editor or Author.
Notice that “Acquisitions Editing” and “Production Editing” are not on this list, even though there are people called “Acquisitions Editors” and “Production Editors.” That’s because they are more project managers for the books, overseeing the various editing stages described above and the technical work that goes into it. Production Editors do much more than just proofreading.
Do you have any questions about publishing? Tomorrow I’m going to talk about some of the most valuable skills to have in the Publishing world (and in business, period). I only have plans to do this series for this week, but I’m definitely open to continuing it if so desired! Feel free to leave me a comment or ask your question here: