As an indexer we’re part of the publishing process, so the more we know about that process the better even though we don’t really see the manuscript until near the end. I’ve found that the Newsletter from Editorial Inspirations from April Michelle Davis most informative. I’ve always known that and editor is not an editor is not an editor; I have a friend who is a copy editor, and I certainly knew that she did more that correct spelling and grammar errors, but a succinct description of the various types of editing is helpful. So for those of us newer to the publishing process, I though this might be helpful.
I’ve reproduced here (with permission) a section for the Editorial Inspirations newsletter:
Many people do not understand that there are different types of editing. They think editing is simply correcting grammatical mistakes and spelling errors. Understanding the three main types of editing and the type of editing each manuscript needs is important in having the manuscript reach its full potential.
Developmental Editing—This kind of editing looks at the work as a whole, not searching for grammatical issues but looking to improve the work in other ways, including developing the plot or setting, making sure the characters are not flat, researching any needed information, and creating vivid imagery.
Copyediting—Not only does this type of editing include the basic spelling and grammar, but it also includes looking for inconsistencies, finding and correcting errors, and omitting anything unnecessary. Sometimes it can even include checking the accuracy of facts in the work and correcting them.
Proofreading—This type of editing covers the basics: spelling, grammar, and punctuation. Proofreading usually takes place after the work has been edited in some other way, mostly as the last run through to catch any missed errors and to fix any problems that were made during the design process. Proofreading is typically performed after the manuscript has been laid out to look like a book.
Each of these types of editing has its own place and importance in improving the manuscript and making it ready to publish. For example, developmental editing would come before copyediting and copyediting would come before proofreading. Recognizing and deciding how to apply these three types of editing can help people choose whether to self-edit or send the work out for someone else to edit.