In my previous blog post, we looked into the role of editors and proofreaders in trade books. I pointed out that there is more to editing than just fixing spelling and grammatical errors. There are different types of editing, and each serves a purpose.

For first-time and aspiring authors who opt for self-publishing and don’t have sufficient funds for it, finding the most affordable editor is probably the first option. Here’s a question I’d like to pose to you: how certain are you that the editor will cover all types of editing efficiently, that they are competent to cover all of them?

It is very easy to compromise on the quality of your manuscript when the controlling factor is affordability, particularly when you are unaware of the rules to be applied and the time needed for editing.

As a member of the Professional Editors’ Guild, it has been a great privilege to attend webinars hosted by John Linnegar, accredited text editor, proofreader, co-author of books on editing principles and PEG’s Accreditation Coordinator. Through this blog post, I will be sharing about the different levels of editing, which I hope you will find insightful and will help you to make the best decision for your manuscript.

Let’s zoom in to the different types of editing and understand their significance:

Structural/substantive editing

This type of editing focuses on improving the overall coverage and presentation of the manuscript. It looks at the content, the scope, length and organisation. Logical flow, clear meaning and purpose (which looks into the appropriateness of the content for the intended audience) are among the key objectives of this level of editing.

Copy-editing/line editing

This type of editing focuses on each sentence and paragraph. It seeks to achieve four things: correctness, consistency, accuracy and completeness. What is meant by these?

Correctness – the editor fixes the grammar, ensures that different punctuation marks are applied correctly, corrects spelling and typos), and ensures correct use of prepositions, idioms and phrases.

Consistency – the editor ensures consistency of the following throughout the manuscript: abbreviations, number and date format, measurements (whether metric or imperial system), spelling (whether using US/UK spelling), citing style (APA, Harvard, etc). Here, editors use what is called a style sheet guide for the particular manuscript and a house style guide which is generally used by publishing houses for books they publish. The editor also looks into any inconsistency in logic, factual details and cross-referencing in the manuscript.

Accuracy and completeness – this is applied to the names of people, places, titles, quotations and weblinks that may be used in the manuscript. The editor also looks out for quotations that have no source, generalisation that is unsupported, contradictions, unclear meaning, invalid statements, gaps in content and instances where permission/copyright may be needed.

Stylistic editing

An author’s writing style determines whether the reader is enticed to continue reading the book or to put it away. Stylistic editing looks at sentence construction, improves the choice of words and adjusts the length and structure of paragraphs to cater for either variety or consistency. The editor ensures that the tone, style, level of formality, language and reading levels are appropriate for your audience.

Can you see how important each type of editing is? Each of them focuses on different aspects of the manuscript, and each is as significant as the other. Therefore, it is of utmost importance to give attention to every aspect of your manuscript, or to at least evaluate your manuscript for each level of editing and see if all the objectives identified have been attended to.

Photo credits: Image by Natasha Gonçalves

The views expressed here do not necessarily reflect those of PEG.

About Simthandile Mhlambiso

Simthandile Mhlambiso is the founder and managing director of Mpilo Publishing (Pty) Ltd, a company founded in 2018 that assists authors to self-publish books. She took it upon herself to do the necessary research on self-publishing, enrolled into editing and entrepreneurship courses, registered and started running the company out of passion for books.

About PEG

The Professional Editors’ Guild (PEG) is a non-profit company (NPC) in South Africa. Since moving to online activities in March 2020, PEG has been able to offer members across South Africa, and internationally, access to an extensive online webinar programme. Continuing professional development remains a key offering and the first PEG Accreditation Test was administered in August 2020 to benchmark excellence in the field of editing.