During the process of editing your own work or seeking professional editing assistance, you will most likely have come across the terms developmental edit, line edit, and copyedit. But what do each of these ‘edits’ actually entail?
The first edit your manuscript will undergo is a developmental edit, or “dev ed.” Developmental editing focuses on the story as a whole. A developmental editor will look at ‘big picture’ aspects such as plot, character, theme, timeline, pacing, etc., and draw attention to moments of weakness. For example, a developmental edit may point out areas where more worldbuilding is needed to understand the actions and their consequences, where too many characters are introduced and dropped, never to be heard from again, or instances where more submersion in the protagonist’s point of view will improve characterization.
After developmental issues are addressed, the manuscript is ready for a line edit. Line editing addresses issues with prose, such as elements of style, word choice, syntax, transitions, etc., to ensure that these elements are consistent throughout the manuscript. For example, a line edit might highlight the repetitive descriptions of hand movements in the first two chapters, point out unintentional or confusing shifts in tense, or mark problems with head-hopping.
Then comes the copyedit. Copyediting deals with errors in grammar and punctuation. These edits pay close attention to clarity, and pinpoint discrepancies between an author’s intended meaning and a reader’s perceived meaning. For example, a copyeditor may flag misspellings, improper word usage, and crutch words, or suggest an alternative phrasing that better communicates the action.
For some publishing companies, copyediting is the final stage, and is synonymous with proofreading. For others, a few rounds of copyediting are then followed by a few rounds of proofreading. Regardless of what this ‘final stage’ is called, this last step ensures that the manuscript is consistent with the Chicago Manual of Style.