What’s the difference?

Write without fear. Edit without mercy.

When it comes to editorial services, it can be difficult to know what you need. What do the different services mean and when do you need them?

Some people see these as different “levels” of service, others see them as discrete steps in the publishing process. If you’re self-publishing, think like a traditional publisher and copy their steps to get the best results. This post tells you a little about what you can expect to get when I return your manuscript and this post gives you an idea about how to understand my editing.

It is always important to get a professional pair of eyes on your manuscript. Not only does editing address typos, spelling mistakes and grammar gremlins, it can also smooth your words, making it easy for your readers.

There are as many different definitions for these services as there are people who provide the services. That’s why it is important to get to know your editor and to have an idea about what you want to achieve from the editing process. This post gives an idea about the different services that I offer. For more information, get in touch to discuss your requirements.

Developmental editing

Whether you are writing fiction or creative non-fiction, a developmental edit will address some of the “big picture” issues in your text. Developmental editing is perfect for writers who get “stuck” with knowing how to progress with their manuscript and it addresses some of the key issues of your writing.

Depending on your writing and your genre, a developmental edit may look at some or all of the following:

  • Plot development
  • Narrative structure
  • Character arcs
  • Dialogue
  • Emotional
  • How to show, rather than tell

For creative non-fiction, this can be a point to develop the progression of information and your voice as an author. It is still important that your readers connect with your writing.

This is more than a beta read. This is detailed feedback that you can use to move forward with your writing. You’ll get notes, both in the manuscript and in a report, to help you further develop your writing and make the most from your idea.

Developmental editing is not about taking your writing away from you. It is about making suggestions and reading as a critical friend. Unlike your Aunty Betty who might have to be tactful when making suggestions, a developmental editor can sensitively and professionally work with you to improve your writing.


When you are happy with your manuscript, a copyedit can tighten your prose further. It does this by looking at these key areas:

  • Consistency
  • Clarity
  • Conciseness
  • Correctness

Consistency across the manuscript is important at the copyediting stage. English is full of variety but in your manuscript, getting everything to be the same is important. Some editors like to hyphenate copy-edit, I like copyedit as one word: across all my work I keep it consistent. That goes for your writing too. Consistency in voice, punctuation use, vocabulary … the list goes on!

Clarity is vital for the reader. Clear prose makes it easy for your readers to connect with the characters in your story or the information in your book. Long sentences, overly complex structures, unnatural vocabulary can all create a disconnect between your writing and your reader.

Conciseness, like clarity, is an important step in copyediting. We’re all guilty of saying too much and a copyeditor will look for examples of this in your writing.

Getting your writing correct is the final, and often most visible, part of the copyediting process. Here, the copyeditor will address spelling, punctuation and grammar. They will also check some facts (yes, even in fiction your facts are important) and ensure that your plot and story are as consistent and correct as they should be (if your character has brown eyes in chapter three, they need to still have brown eyes in chapter thirty-three!).


Proofreading happens just before publication. Ideally, your book will have been typeset and laid out, with all the little details like page numbers, the contents and cover all put together. So proofreading is usually done in PDF software with the book looking like it’s ready to be published. So the proofreader doesn’t change anything but marks up the pages with any corrections that need to be made.

Like copyediting, proofreading checks for consistency and correctness in spellings, punctuation and grammar. It also checks formatting, page numbers, correct layout and for any missing elements that may have fallen off during the typesetting stage.

Proofreading is the very last opportunity to have a professional and trained set of eyes check your manuscript before you release your work to the world. Nobody notices if the text is error-free; everybody shouts when they find a typo!


As the publishing world changes and moves and self-publishing becomes ever more popular, a hybrid service has come about. This is known as “proof-editing” because it encompasses the focus of proofreading with the changes of copyediting.

Often, self-publishing and ebook publishing requires nothing more than a Word document, missing the typesetting stage. Therefore, the proofreader can make changes directly to the manuscript. It is important to understand, however, that this is different from copyediting. If you have briefed someone to proof-edit, they might not look for all of the things they would look for during a copyedit. Make sure you understand what you want and your editor or proofreader knows what you are after too.

Further reading

This fact sheet from the Chartered Institute of Editing and Proofreading (the CIEP) gives a really easy to follow guide on the differences between proofreading and copyediting.

Of course, you can always get in touch to discuss your requirements and to talk about your project. I am always happy to answer questions about editing! This is a very brief overview of the services that I can offer. If you are self-publishing or traditional publishing, your requirements may be very different, so please, find out more today and get in touch! I look forward to hearing from you.

Still not sure? Why not try for free!

For more information on the services I provide, download this free ebook.

For more resources, check out this page.

Nick (he/him) is an editor and proofreader, specialising in LGBTQ+ writing. He is an Intermediate Member of the Chartered Institute of Editing and Proofreading and a member of PEN, the Professional Editors Network.

To find out more and to work with Nick, use the buttons above.

Receive my newsletter!

Success! You're on the list.

Your support helps!

Button with text: Support me on Ko-fi

Your Ko-fi donations help keep me blogging about writing and editing. They also ensure that I can create and provide free resources for editors and writers. Please consider buying me a cuppa!

Published by Nick Taylor | Editor & Proofreader

Editor and proofreader specialising in LGBTQ+ writing, both fiction and non-fiction.

10 thoughts on “What’s the difference?

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: