Since you’re here, you’re probably looking for an editor. Or maybe you’ll need one later and you’re doing your research. Welcome! And good on ya, thinking ahead like you are!

Here are four somewhat-rhetorical questions to ask yourself. The answers will help you decide what sort you’re looking for.

I’m stuck in the middle. Who can help?

You know you’re supposed to write this story, you might even know how it ends, but you’re not sure how to get there, or if your scenes even make sense! Sounds like you want a developmental editor or a book coach.

Dev. editors and book coaches are used to working with stuck authors, and you don’t have to have your ducks in a row (or even have the flock in the same pond) to team up with one. They’ll help get your plot structure straightened out and/or coach you along the way. You may not always need one, but in the beginning of your writing journey, a dev. editor can be a valuable asset on your team.

Buzzwords/synonyms: dev. editor, DE, content editor, substantive editor, book coach, story coach. 

I’ve finished my story but what do I do now?

You know you’re supposed to do something. It’s about as done as you can make it, but it doesn’t feel finished. You’re probably ready for a line editor.

 Line editors are the workhorses of the editing world, the stereotypical red-pen wielders you think of when you hear the word “editor”. Officially, they “tighten prose, ensure consistency in language and style, and enhance your voice to best serve the story.” Unofficially, they also encourage/bolster, highlight trends and patterns in your writing, and generally help you to recognize your best writing so that you learn to lean into your strengths and strengthen your weaknesses. 

Buzzwords/synonyms: line editor, LE, just-plain-editor. (there aren’t a whole lot for this one)

Is my book as polished as it can be?

 Your story is solid, the narration flows pretty well, but maybe there are some clunky bits. You, my friend, are in want of a copyeditor!

She is the pro who makes your sentences sing. She’ll polish your grammar, syntax, spelling, and punctuation, and look for any discrepancies in the manuscript. She’ll help you find exactly the right words for concise, precise storytelling. And she’ll help you know when to use that tricky semicolon effectively!

Buzzwords/synonyms: copy editor/copy-editor, CE, technical (tech) editor, (sometimes confused with a proofreader, but while it can look very similar, it isn’t, and we’ll cover it below)

Am I done yet?

Okay, you’ve been through all the editing stages from developmental to copyediting; surely there can’t be any more to this process!

There is one more thing. Proofreading! As I alluded to above, this isn’t the same as copyediting, although in these modern printing times they’re sometimes used interchangeably. With proofreading, the editor is strictly checking for spelling, punctuation, and spacing issues. They don’t make suggestions about how to tell the story or use language more effectively. They’re just making sure what’s on the page is technically correct. (Unless there’s an egregious, can’t-be-ignored issue, in which case they may mention it in a query.)

Synonym: Proofer


There you have it: the four major types of editing and how to discern which type you’re looking for. For more info on line editing, copyediting, or proofreading, click here.

If you ever have a question about what I or other editors mean when we start throwing out buzzwords, please ask! I love talking about editing, the work of an editor, and how we partner with writers. You can always schedule a consultation. I’m happy to help, no strings attached.