Editorial Options and Services

What Kind of Editing Does Your Manuscript Need?

Although the term “editing” is used somewhat generically, there are actually several types of editing, varying from “light” to “heavy,” with increasing levels of complexity and editorial input. The fees for editing also vary according to the level of depth and complexity involved.

In all of our editing decisions and corrections, our ultimate reference and guide is The Chicago Manual of Style: The Essential Guide for Writers, Editors, and Publishers, sixteenth edition. It is the standard used in all publishing today and the final arbiter and last word for preparing an acceptable manuscript for publication.

Developmental Editing

Developmental editing is the most in-depth and complex of all editing and it is the most expensive.

A Developmental Editor takes a project from an initial idea, concept, or rough draft point and, through an arduous creative process, develops the author’s germ of an idea (plot, character, theme, etc.) into a fully realized book. Developmental editing involves a great deal of consultation with the author before the actual writing begins, consultation which continues throughout the writing of the book until a satisfactory manuscript is produced. It is but a hair’s breath away from ghostwriting, although the author ultimately performs the writing and is responsible for the final text. Developmental Editors often assist in planning the organization and content of a book (or white paper, speech, etc.). They make suggestions about content and presentation, tone, voice and other key aspects of the work. They may also write or rewrite text, do much research, and point out tangential considerations and further related topics for the author to consider that would improve the book.

Following Developmental Editing, the manuscript then must go through exacting copyediting and proofreading before it is complete and considered worthy of publication.

Substantive Editing

Substantive Editors work with an author who has a full but unsatisfactory manuscript. They assist the author in getting it into its final form. Substantive Editing is an involved, complex process, which can include reordering or rewriting portions and sections of it to improve qualities such as readability, clarity, accuracy, dramatic tension, character development and overall effectiveness in achieving the author’s goals. Such aspects of the text as plot, credibility, consistency, convincing dialogue and so forth, if pertinent to the book in question, are also examined and re-worked, if necessary.

Line Editing

Line editing zeroes in on the sentence or paragraph level, rather than the broad story of the work. It deals with refining sentence structure and flow to make the writing both more readable and more enjoyable to read. Line editing addresses such things as wordiness, awkward sentence structure, and other “clumsy” issues that make your writing seem crude or hastily written. It is very effective and valuable.


When the nonprofessional thinks of “editing,” he or she most often is equating it with Copyediting. Copy Editors work with the manuscript when it is close to its final form. Copy Editors scrutinize every sentence closely, intent on rectifying all errors of spelling, punctuation, capitalization, grammar, and usage, while at the same time preserving the original meaning and voice of the author. Through consultation with the author, they often rewrite mangled sentences and suggest improved phrasing or word choices.


Proofreading is the last phase of the editorial process. This is “light” editing. Proofreaders usually see a project after it is nearly complete, and Proofreaders catch and correct errors missed during copyediting or introduced during the book’s design. It’s the last stop before publication.

Whatever your needs, good editing is indispensable for a book’s success and the cost is minimal in the light of the magic a good editor can work on your manuscript!

Warning, a Word to the Wise

All professional editing is a meticulous, labor-intensive process, and one acquires the necessary skills to be a great editor only after many years of study and hands-on experience. It’s not something an English teacher, journalist or other writer can be proficient at without years of training. And it is certainly not a skill set your mother or best friend has qualifying them to serve as a cheap substitute for the real thing. Nor can any software program edit properly because of the nuanced vagaries of human language and the idiosyncratic goals and objectives of individual authors with their own unique styles, lexicons and purposes.

Skipping a good professional edit by a veteran editor for your book for reasons of economy, or lack of understanding what is involved in book editing, instantly consigns it to second rate status and handicaps it in the eyes of the book reading public as the work of a careless amateur.

Free Consultation

If you are unsure about what type of editing your manuscript needs, Margaret Langstaff Editorial offers a free consultation to determine which kind or kinds of editing your book requires to bring it up to professionally acceptable status ready for publication.

You, of course, as the author, are free to decide on your own which kind of editorial treatment you would like your book to receive and we will be guided by your wishes. You may, for instance, feel your book needs only a good copyedit and proofreading in which case we will be happy to comply.

Fees and Turnaround Time

Whatever your editing preferences, before we can give you a tentative quote, we need to see sample chapters, or at least ten to twenty pages, of your manuscript. This is necessary in order for us to gauge the amount of time that will be required to perform the editing tasks you have chosen and to determine the level of difficulty that will be involved in the edit on our end.

Once we’ve reached a general agreement on services and fees, we need to see your entire manuscript to give you a firm price quote and turnaround time.

For a range of fees and average edit time frames common in professional editing, you can check the Editorial Freelance Association website.

Manuscript Evaluation Expert