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What’s the Difference Between a Development edit, Copy-edit and Proofreading?


So, you’ve written a book and it’s ready for the next step of the publishing process.


If this is the first time you’ve created a book, the next step might seem a little daunting. You might associate it with negative feedback or criticism in the editorial stages, but that’s simply not the case.


We’re talking about the editorial process, of course.

The crucial next step to getting your book publication-ready.


But with so many editorial options out there including, developmental editing, copy-editing, and line editing, as well as proofreading, where do you start?


To get you off on the right track, we’ve put together this very simplified quick guide to highlight the simple differences between developmental editing, copy editing, and proofreading to help you decide if you feel you require any service to help you reach the end goal of having a professional crisp, clean product.


What is a development edit?

Developmental editing is a thorough and in-depth edit of your entire manuscript. It is an examination of all the elements of the writing, from single words to the way in which individual sentences are phrased, to overall structure and style. It can address plot holes or gaps, problematic characterization and all other existing material. After a round of developmental editing — also called structural or substantive editing — a manuscript can change substantially; for inexperienced authors, being able to accept direct, professional, honest feedback can be a difficult experience. Much of what you have spent many weeks or even months authoring could potentially be cut, re-shaped, moved or criticised. Good developmental editing will also bear in mind your target audience and will certainly compare your finished work in relation to professional industry standards and expectations. Only once your manuscript has been cut, reshaped, revised, and developed will it be ready for a copyedit and proofread.


What is copy-editing?

Copy editing is the act of fine-tuning a book’s text, otherwise known as the ‘copy.’ A copy edit will generally address grammatical or punctuation errors, incorrect facts, anomalies, inconsistencies and glaring typos. Overall, the purpose of copy editing is to ensure that the language supports the writer’s intent — while also creating the most readable version of their book. Professional copy editors can make sure your manuscript isn’t riddled with bad grammar, spelling mistakes, or glaring inconsistencies. They won’t enter into big-picture issues such as characterization, plot or pacing; instead, they will go through the manuscript line by line and focus on all the little things you might not have thought about. They’ll catch things like did your character have brown hair in chapter one but blonde hair in chapter eleven? They’ll save your tone and style from unintentionally wild shifts between sections. They’ll pull your book together, page by page.

A good copy-editor tries to ensure that your reader can get lost in your book without tripping over any errors or inconsistencies that snap them out of what they’re reading.


What is proofreading?

Proofreading is typically the final step in the editing process. During the proofread, your book will once again be checked for any spelling or grammatical errors. However, this step generally focuses more on presentation than on content, which would typically be picked up in earlier editing, and so instead, it checks for things like layout, heading and indentation consistency, and that all images are labelled correctly.


Which do I need?

Now that you understand the difference between editing and proofreading, deciding which service you need should be simple.


If you’ve finished your own editing and now need a professional editor to complete a full edit of the book, it’s copy-editing you need. But, if the content of your book has already been checked for inconsistencies and flows well from sentence-to-sentence, proofreading will ensure that it’s ready for publication.


Looking for help with editing now?


At Tech-Set, we have experienced copy and development editors for all subjects and all content. We can help with proofreading, fact-checking, indexing, glossary creation and much more.


To discuss this any this or any of our other services you can contact us on (0191) 482 5042 or alternatively you can email us on production@tech-set.com.

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