Not sure exactly what you need from your editor? Here’s a quick “quiz” to help you figure it out.

1. Are you familiar with the three-act structure or the hero’s journey?
2. Have you ever heard of the snowflake method or MRUs?
3. Did you use an outline or any design documents prior to writing this manuscript?

If you answered no to all of the above, then you probably need developmental edits, but not necessarily. Scroll down for more on developmental editing.

4. How would you describe your voice?
5. What are some of your style preferences, both mechanical and idiomatic?

If you aren’t sure how to answer those two questions, then you probably need a line editor.

6. Do you have a document that keeps track of character specifics?
7. Do you have a document for settings and universe-specific “rules”?
8. Are you familiar with The Chicago Manual of Style, The Elements of Style (Strunk & White), or the Associated Press Stylebook and the rules contained therein?

If you answered no to all three, you’ll probably need a copy edit. At the very least, you’ll need a great proofreader who doesn’t mind doing a bit of light copy editing.

Line and copy editing are typically done simultaneously. CMoS calls it manuscript editing. Scroll down for more on manuscript editing.

9. Are you perfect?

No one is. Everyone needs a proofreader, even editors. You’re welcome. 😉

Keep reading for a bit more information on the different levels of editing.

To request a free consultation, see Request a Free Consultation.

To book an editing slot now, see Book a Slot.

For instructions on formatting and sending your manuscript, see Send Your Manuscript.

Developmental Editing

Most writers are voracious readers and come by their story-telling chops naturally. There’s a good chance you’ve got a knack for structure and don’t even know it. Best to get a manuscript assessment before paying for a full developmental edit. Might save you some money in the long run.

As an alternative to hiring a professional to evaluate your manuscript, you might consider running it by at least one critique partner (one who also writes). Worst case scenario, you skip this step altogether and opt for manuscript editing. If the manuscript is in dire need of a significant developmental edit, a professional editor will usually stop working and let you know immediately that there’s a problem. No one wants their name attached to a project that’s obviously in need of more work.

If there are minor developmental issues, many editors will simply do the additional work and renegotiate their fee to account for the additional time spent on your manuscript.

Manuscript Editing

This is the phase of editing that comes after developmental edits but before a final proofread. Manuscript editing, as defined by The Chicago Manual of Style, involves two distinct but overlapping levels of edits that are typically done simultaneously: line and copy editing.

Line editing focuses on style and voice, clarity, presentation, syntax, flow, and readability in general. During the copy editing phase, consistency, continuity, style and mechanics, and grammar are closely examined.


In its most basic definition, proofreading is identifying and correcting various errors, including but not limited to: misused homonyms, synonyms, antonyms, and punctuation. Formatting oddities would also be pointed out during this phase. Though word choice is typically addressed during manuscript editing, if a word is misused a proofreader will usually suggest the appropriate alternative.

Published in Editing

Tagged with editing


Jessica West (West1Jess) is pursuing a state of self-induced psychosis (reading, writing, editing). She lives in Acadiana with three daughters still young enough to think she's cool and a husband who knows better but likes her anyway.

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