What does it mean to edit a document?

It’s no wonder that authors are often unsure what editing services they need for their paper or manuscript. The term editing seems to be used interchangeably to refer to copyediting, proofreading, substantive editing, content editing, and technical editing. So what does it mean to edit a document?

Defined Edition

A simple definition of editing is to improve the text of some kind, whether it is being published for millions or for a college class. Editing services aim for the copy to be well-written, high-quality, and error-free. Publishing as a service is important for a variety of copy types. Perhaps it will appear online as a blog or article, in a magazine or newspaper, as an ad or poster, or as an entire book.

There are various types of manuscript manipulation techniques that require understanding to fully understand where editing lies within the publishing process. Related services that we will cover are copyediting, substantive editing, and proofreading.

Copy editing

Copyeditors generally provide line-by-line or sentence-by-sentence editing services. This means they will make suggestions for sentence structure, flow, and word choice, and correct any mistakes they find in grammar, spelling, or punctuation. They will check the format and alignment with applicable style guides, such as the Chicago Manual of Style or the style of the American Psychological Association (APA). These style guides are especially particular about references and citation lists in academic or technical papers.

Proofreading generally does not include providing suggestions on the style and consistency of the entire document, especially if it is a book-sized piece of work. Proofreading focuses more on each sentence, word, and paragraph. Sometimes copyeditors communicate with authors, but often they don’t.

substantive edition

Substantive editing, also known as development editing, addresses the organization of ideas within a document and goes deeper into meaning and tone for the intended audience than style editing. A substantive editor will pay attention to how ideas, wording, and readability are organized.

Development or substantive editors will also pay attention to consistency of tone, language, and word usage throughout the document. They may or may not be responsible for correcting grammatical or spelling errors, as their focus is on the complete presentation of the text.


Revision can be thought of as the “shallow” type of editing. Proofreaders look for typos and errors in text that has already been edited. Your job is to catch anything the editor or copyeditor may have missed. They do not pay attention to the themes or the overall tone.

Editing and proofreading, as opposed to proofreading, can include grammar, punctuation, sentence structure, style, consistency, word choice, tone, paragraph length, and more. Often when people say “edit,” they mean a deeper, substantive, or developmental edit. Sometimes, however, “edit” is used to refer to proofreading.

That’s why it’s always a good idea to clarify if you’re not sure what type of service you need for your document, or if you’ve been asked to edit something. A simple clarifying answer will divulge whether the document should be scanned for errors or changed to improve the quality of the writing.

Hiring an editor is always a good idea for school newspapers; online publications such as blogs, newsletters or articles; important correspondence; copy of the website; or self-published books. Each project will differ in its development or review editing needs. Therefore, it is important to consider how deeply the text needs to be revised to reach the ultimate goal of communicating with the intended audience.

Originally published at https://www.EditorWorld.com.

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