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Understanding Book Editing

Four levels of book editing every author needs to understand

Editing is the process which transforms raw manuscripts into their final publishable content. In traditional publishing, every book goes through editorial processes which range from big picture considerations such as book structure and character development down to the minute details of the rules of grammar. Roughly speaking, there are four levels of editing. Each of the levels is congruent with the others. A thorough proofreading incorporates aspects of the highest level of editing, which is content editing. Copy editing and line editing can have so much overlap it can be hard to tell where one leaves off and the other begins. Excellence in any of the levels of editing leads to excellence in the others. Books, like language itself, are extraordinarily complex at the level of their actual content. And writing itself is deeply subjective. Thus, the need for competent editing from an objective, trained editor.

1. Content editing represents the most fundamental level of editing that books receive. Content editing is a combination of critique and developmental editing. Book critiques, in traditional publishing, are part of the acquisition process. At the same time, the longer one writes, the more necessary multiple manuscript critiques seem to be. The reason why is because its nearly impossible to gain an objective view of one’s own writing without feedback from readers. Of course, the same is true in film and music productions. The creative process tends to be intensely subjective and self-referential while the publishing and production processes are more rooted in the ‘objective realities’ of other people, markets and / or standards. E.g. sales. Naturally writers want and need to know if what they are writing will connect with readers.

2. Line editing is the all-purpose level of editing in book publishing. Imagine a submarine and an accomplished engineer who can fix any issue. That’s the line editor. Line editors operate in the area between developmental editors and copy editors. Line editors are the ‘fixers’ of sentences and larger structures such as plot and character development. Their primary focus is on meaning, fine sentence structure, and overall clear communication. Line editing can also involve writing in the form of making textual suggestions to the author.
3. Copyediting is concerned with the rules of grammar, punctuation, formatting, and spelling. It also includes the following:
Traditional publishers often utilize style sheets which predetermine certain editorial decisions. E.g. whether to use serial commas, rules of capitalization, spelling, punctuation, etc. Publisher style sheets are often based on broadly accepted style guide. Book publishing in primarily based the Chicago Manual of Style.

Writers are often surprised at the power of a though copy-edit to strengthen a manuscript. In practice there is a fine line between copy editing and line editing. Line editing includes copyedits and copyediting can easily veer into line edits.

4. Proofreading is the final editing by the author or publisher to correct errors of grammar and design. It includes the following:

Proofreading is arguably among the most valuable of all the edits since it includes everything up to and including the printed page. That said, it seems to be the lest valued in terms of compensation. Authors often do this step themselves.

We offer all levels of editing. Would you like an editorial consultation? Contact us here: edit@epigraphps.com. We’ll be back in touch soon.

For more information call 845-876-4861.