Why Are There Different Types of Editing?

My last three posts have explained the differences between the three types of editing: content editing, copy editing, and proofreading. In these posts, I stressed the fact that each type of editing should be completed separately. But why is that? And why are they completed in such a particular order?

The main reason each level of editing ought to be completed separately is so the editor’s efforts are focused.

Another important reason for each stage of editing to be completed separately is to prevent double-ups from occurring. For example, if an editor completes copy editing before or alongside content editing, they’ll likely have to redo the task anyway. Content editing includes rewriting, rearranging, adding, and omitting text, which means if that text was copy edited already, all that hard work will be undone.

The separation of these tasks also means that an editor can focus on a specific set of elements without getting sidetracked. Editing structure and content takes a lot longer if the editor stops to think about every comma and dash along the way. Keeping the stages of editing separate makes it easier to do each job thoroughly, because the editor isn’t trying to do too many things at once.

Another reason the three stages happen in this order is that, once a piece of work has been put in the design file, making changes like adding or removing words creates a lot more work for the designer than you might think. Keeping the stages separate ensures that each level of editing is completed thoroughly, without distraction, to minimise having to redo tedious work.

Types of Editing: Copy Editing

Copy EditingIn my previous post, I talked about the first stage of editing which focuses on improving the overall structure and content of written work. Today, let me tell you about copy editing.

This stage focuses on editing at the sentence-level, eradicating errors in spelling, punctuation, grammar and usage. An editor will also correct issues in sentence structure and address consistency issues such as tense and spelling conventions.

Editors should have certain tools at their disposal during this stage, such a style sheet and a spelling sheet, where they can easily record words and names with unique or variable spelling and other stylistic preferences. Of course, they should also have a dictionary (or online subscription to one) handy, and a thesaurus never goes astray. Depending on the type of writing, an editor might also need a referencing guide or a specialised dictionary for a specific subject.

The author is usually not involved in this stage of editing unless the editor requires clarification.

It’s important to note that when the work is being edited for publication, copy editing is the last chance to ensure everything is correct before it goes to the designer. Once the writing has been placed into a design file, it becomes harder to make changes. In other words, copy editing must be completed thoroughly to avoid potential problems later on.