levels of editing

Editing is not proofreading. 

Editing is a process that moves across the body of work in a methodical and systematic way for the purpose of providing suggested changes to bring clarity, sharpness and sometimes direction to a body of work. 

There are 3 distinct levels of editing: Substantive Editing. Copyediting. Proofreading. Most books pass many times through at least two of these three levels before being published, if not all. 

what level of editing do you need?

This depends on how far along the writing process you are, the stage your manuscript is currently at, and any problems the manuscript presents. 

As a professional member of the Institute of Professional Editors (IPEd), I align my understanding of the 3 levels of editing with the Institute’s definitions; I also offer development editing, which includes writer coaching, and manuscript assessments. 

Consider the following definitions below to discover what level of editing would benefit your manuscript the most.  

pencil number

Substantive/Structural Editing

Improves on the structural organisation and shape of the book. Strengthens the overarching plots or narratives and clarifies meaning within each part, section or chapter so that content is cohesive across the whole book and promises are kept from beginning to end.


Copy Editing

Ensures the copy is accurate, clear, concise, and consistent across the work, and the intended meaning is coherent, complete and flows seamlessly from scene to scene.



Corrects punctuation and typographical errors, spelling and grammar mistakes, formatting and visual elements, and any overlooked errors.



Development Editing

Takes the bones of a writing project and works closely with the author through writer coaching to develop a 1st draft into a body of work ready for further editing.


Manuscript Assessment

Provides critical feedback to encourage
areas where a manuscript works or could be monopolised on, while highlighting any areas that require further development.

Frequently asked questions

How long will the editing process take?

This depends on the level of editing the manuscript needs. When an editor receives a manuscript, they take several passes or reads over the content. With each read they concentrate on correcting technical and writing craft problems. 

Once the editor has completed the full edit, they will return the manuscript to the client with feedback and  suggested changes. The client will then go through the manuscript and either reject or approve these changes. 

For Copyediting or Proofreading, this is usually the end of the editing process. But, for Development or Substantive Editing the process of accepting/rejecting changes becomes discussion based. This is where learning about ‘how to write’ happens. And, this takes time. 

Will having my manuscript edited bring acceptance from traditional publishers?

Having work edited helps writers to prepare their manuscript for publication. This can enable writers to position their manuscripts more favourably with traditional publishers. 

In general, freelance Editors have no control over manuscripts being accepted by traditional publishers.

What problems do manuscripts have?

Manuscripts arrive with all sorts of intricate problems. These include, but are not limited to:

  • Structural inconsistencies
  • Disorganised format or layout
  • Promises not kept
  • Characters’ actions not credible or realistic
  • Scenes don’t advance the story
  • Dialogue is stereotypical or unrealistic
  • Plot is contrived
  • Paragraphs don’t flow, or information is random and not directly related to the topic
  • Tone doesn’t match projected audience
  • Grammatical errors
  • Point of view or narrative perspective changes
  • Wordy writing, or unfocused writing that doesn’t advance story or points
  • Lack of cohesion across scenes or chapters
  • Inconsistent style
  • Inaccurate content, or copy taken from the Internet

Why isn't my manuscript proofread?

If the level of editing required for your manuscript is proofreading then your manuscript will be ONLY proofread. 

If the manuscript needs Development Editing, Substantive/Structural Editing, or Copyediting, your manuscript will NOT be proofread. 

Proofreading is the final level of editing and usually takes place once the foundational writing issues and other editorial considerations have been addressed.


She has Captured Everything

I highly recommend Kyla-Jayne as a writer, blogger and website editor. I am blown away by how professional she is with her writing. Not only that, everything else as well, attention to detail and a perfectionist, nothing was left out, and I am over the moon with how my website looks and feels. Thanks so much KJ!

Gail McMasters
Visual Artist.
Supportive. Approachable. Wise.

Kyla-Jayne's editing style encouraged my writing and creative abilities. Always approachable, her contribution added value to my business collateral and supported my marketing strategies. Her supportive approach reminded me I could write and inspired me to complete my Masters in Business Administration.

Paul Coniglio
Business Leader. Motivational Speaker.
I Sincerely Appreciate your Appraisal

Thank you very much for your thorough appraisal of my manuscript with detailed recommendations. I really appreciate your effort and attention to detail. I am now taking your advice and have started rewriting the manuscript, now in its seventh draft!

Derek Randy