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Guidance for Self-Publishing Authors: Stages of Editing

So, you've finished writing your book and now you're wondering, what happens next? You may have had a few friends look over it but have decided that you want a professional to give it a final check before you upload it as an eBook or have it printed. There are different rounds of editing that a book can go through, and it's helpful to understand the type of editing that happens at each stage.

Developmental Editing

This occurs at the early stages of the editing process and looks at the bigger picture. An editor will be thinking about the major aspects of the novel, such as the structure, plot, pace, characterisation and point of view. The editor's role will be to help strengthen the author's voice and keep the reader engaged in the story.

Line Editing

This stage involves looking at each sentence in more detail. Is the choice of language appropriate for the intended reader? Does the word choice and sentence structure convey the correct mood, the right pace? Is the message clear? It may be that replacing some adverbs with more expressive verbs will quicken the pace or perhaps there are some redundant sentences that are pulling the reader out of the story. Line editing considers each sentence and whether it delivers the desired effect.


At this point, editors are checking for errors in spelling, grammar and punctuation as well as consistency in style, for example:

· Spelling and word forms: ise/ize endings, among/amongst, while/whilst

· Hyphenation: halfway/half way/half-way

· Numbers: words from one to nine, figures for 10 and above, 1,000/1000

· Capitalisation: capitals for a person's title (Queen Elizabeth) but not for the office in general (queens are often …)

The copyeditor will usually create a style sheet to record the decisions that have been made so that it can be referred to when required to ensure consistency. In fiction, descriptions of both characters and settings are likely to be recorded as well. This is so that mistakes can be spotted; perhaps Bob's hair is brown but a couple of pages later it has become blond without explanation or perhaps his favourite blue scarf has become a green scarf, for example. These errors may seem minor, but anything that distracts the reader can damage their enjoyment of the novel and undermine the quality of the work.


This is the last stage in the editing process. The proofreader will check spelling, punctuation, grammar and consistency in style and layout. This is the final opportunity to spot any errors missed by the copyeditor or inadvertently introduced by the typesetter. Any amendments to the text will be minimal because any change can introduce more errors and, in conventional publishing, can be costly. Furthermore, even small amendments can have a knock-on effect on page layout. Proofreading, therefore, is not the time for major changes.

It’s important that the different stages of editing are carried out in the order mentioned above. Some editors will line edit and copyedit at the same time. It is recommended to hire someone other than the editor to provide the proofread: a fresh pair of eyes will often catch more mistakes.

The Right Fit for You

Of course, it may be that you really don't want your manuscript to go through all these rounds of editing, which could be because of the costs involved or your intentions for the book don't require this amount of editing, but an editing professional will want to make you aware of the type of service you will receive and help you to make your book the best it can be. The name given to the type of editing is not particularly important - a shared understanding with your editing professional of the type of editing that will be provided is the goal.

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