Debora Schwartz

Copy editor, technical editor, and proofreader based in Bellingham, Washington, providing services for publishers, self-publishers, websites, nonprofit organizations, and small businesses.

One of the primary goals of editing is to give a reader the most fluid experience possible. When a reader notices a misspelled word or questions a dangling modifier, you run the risk of taking the reader out of the story. And if there are too many mistakes, the reader may stop reading altogether.

If you are new to writing or the editing process, the following questions and answers are intended to, just ever so broadly, bring to light the various types of editing and services I can provide.

I’ve been writing for years and have solid writing skills. Why should I hire an editor?

Whether you just wrote your first story or you’ve been writing for years, every writer should have their work looked over by an editor if they intend to publish.

If you’re new to writing or just coming back to it from a creative hiatus, I recommend attending a few writing workshops where you can get feedback on your work to help shape it and get it to its best version before hiring an editor. The job of an editor is to assist in shaping, polishing, and refining your writing into its best possible form before presenting it to your audience.

What types of editing are there?

The job of an editor is multi-faceted. An editor can help develop and shape ideas, plots, and characters. She can assist with language and finesse sentences, or she can get down into the nitty-gritty of the finer details like grammar, fact-checking, and consistency of style. Then as a final step, once the aforementioned have been addressed, an editor can perform one last review to catch anything glaring that may distract the reader, pulling him out of the story or questioning his confidence in the author. And that is the ultimate goal of an editor: to help an author polish her work and get the best version out there to her audience, so that the reader wants to turn the page or continue reading to the end of the article and to not get distracted by misspellings, bad grammar, and inconsistencies.

Below are the main categories of editing and a very basic description of each, listed in their hierarchical order. Each of these components plays a crucial role in a well-written work, whether it’s a novel, memoir, magazine article, or essay. There are other focuses of editing, but these are the more common ones individual writers will seek out.

Developmental editing. Sometimes blurred with substantive editing, developmental editing focuses on overall structure and organization for clarity and logic. In nonfiction works, developmental editors will look at the thesis, theme, and subject matter. They will also concentrate on scope, structure, and flow and will consider the audience, tone, and voice of a piece. Lastly, they’ll address the components (e.g., text, graphics, charts, maps, sidebars, etc.) and layout of the finished material. In fiction, the developmental editor will look at narrative arc (sequence of story events), character development, pacing, dialogue, and cultural sensitivity among other concerns.

Substantive editing. Also called content editing, this type of editing focuses on the information itself that is being presented: its structure, readability, language and presentation of ideas for its intended audience, factual accuracy, etc., while maintaining consistency of style.

Technical editing. Also a form of content editing in which it looks at how information is presented to an intended audience, technical editing verifies content accuracy and generally focuses on writing of a technical nature where a high level of expertise may be needed. All the while, maintaining a standard and consistency of style.

Line editing. Line editing is often carried out by the developmental editor, but it can also be performed by a copy editor during a heavy copy edit (see below) or as a separate editing phase altogether. The concerns of a line editor are more narrowly focused on the words, how the words are strung together into clear, smooth, and varied sentences and how each sentence, paragraph, and chapter transitions to the next, all the while ensuring there is a consistency in tone.

Copyediting. Copyediting is often confused with proofreading, but they are two different phases of editing. In general, copyediting focuses on mechanics but can include additional elements. First and foremost, copy editors are concerned with matters such as grammar, punctuation, and adherence to style. By using specified dictionaries and style guides such as The Chicago Manual of Style, 17th Edition or The Associated Press Stylebook, copy editors adhere works of writing to a standard set of rules to clarify communication and ensure consistency throughout a document and across multiple documents. With that said, a copy editor also remains sensitive to an author’s own writing style. The goal is to ensure the writing is clear and consistent.

Within copyediting there are three levels of editing: light, medium, and heavy. A light copyedit is the least involved. The primary goal here is to correct mechanical errors such as capitalization, punctuation, spelling, etc. and fix grammar, syntax, and word usage. A copy editor will only point out or query any extremely awkward or wordy passages and suspected errors or factual inconsistencies. A medium copyedit covers the elements of a light copyedit but delves a bit deeper with any confusing elements, gaps in logic, factual inconsistencies, etc. In this case, the copy editor will not only point out these issues in queries but will likely suggest revisions or ask questions to help the writer suss out the item in question. Digging deeper still is the purpose of a heavy copyedit. A heavy copyedit covers all the elements of a light and medium copyedit, but rather than simply making suggestions in queries, an editor will make the revisions in the text itself, revising awkward or wordy passages and factual inconsistencies and querying and/or fixing faulty organization and gaps in logic.

Copy editors are usually the ones who create a project style sheet (see below).

Proofreading. This is the last stop. All other editing passes have been done by this point. A proofread is to catch egregious errors not only in the text but in the design and page layout as well, if applicable. Glaring errors that should be addressed in a proofread may include inconsistency in style, homonym issues, and missing or repeated words.

What is a style sheet?

A style sheet is a document usually created by a copy editor that defines references used, style choices made, and a word list used for any given project. The purpose of a style sheet is to create consistency within a document or across multiple documents. The style sheet then gets passed to subsequent editors working on the project to maintain consistency.

What kind of editing do I need?

Every project is different. It will depend on the writer’s experience, the writer’s wants and needs, and the needs of the project itself. I provide an editorial proposal when determining an estimate.

What kind of editing do you do?

Presently, I do copyediting, content editing, technical editing, and proofreading. I have a special interest in travel guides, travel blogs, wildlife, outdoor recreation, memoir, self-improvement, and pet care.

I also have professional experience working with web technology and digital content and can edit within a variety of technologies such as HTML, CSS, PDFs, content management systems (e.g., WordPress), Wikis, etc.

Connect with me on LinkedIn for a more detailed résumé.

What are your rates?

I work hourly, and my rates vary depending on the project and what type of editing is to be done. In order to give an estimate, I will request to see the material or a sample so I can get a sense of the state of the material and provide an estimate. The Editorial Freelancers Association website provides industry standard rates.

I would like to discuss my project with you, what should I do next?

Contact me!