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: Content Editing

Content Editing_InfographicMany people think of editing as correcting spelling and grammar, but these tasks barely scrape the surface of what editing encompasses.

Over my next three posts, I will outline the main types of editing. Today, let me tell you about content editing.

Content editing—also referred to as structural editing—is the first stage of editing your work should undergo. This is when an editor works closest with an author to improve the overall content and structure of a piece of writing. An easy way to work out what happens at this stage is to consider the name; this level of editing focuses on the content and the structure of the writing.

Put simply, the aim is to strengthen arguments, develop the style and voice, and make sure the work flows logically. For creative pieces, this includes improving characterisation, writing dialogue, and checking for plotholes. For technical writing, it includes keeping the tone professional.

An editor provides constructive feedback to help guide the author in making changes. This process often includes rewriting and rearranging, adding to the manuscript, and removing unnecessary sections.

An editor will also be on the lookout for potential ethical and legal issues at this early stage. If any red flags pop up, an editor will help the author navigate the problem.

The focus on major changes during this stage is crucial. Correcting spelling, grammar, and punctuation is secondary until content/structural editing is over; they will be covered in the next stage.