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Levels of Editing

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Levels of Editing


Editing a book can be a simple or a very complex process, depending on the type of book and the level of editing desired. Different types of books require different types of editing. Fiction books not only require basic editing (for spelling, grammar, etc.) but also attention to story line and plot development, character development, and the consistency of the story. A non-fiction book usually does not require the same type of plot, story line and character editing but has other requirements such as the effective placement and development of information in the book. There has to be a natural flow to the release of information.

There are generally three levels of editing that we can liken to the zooming of a camera lens from the most wide and panoramic view to the most close up and detailed. Although the levels are very often not completely separate in practice, the editing process usually starts with the first level;  but we shall start by explaining the third level:

The third level of editing is referred to as Copy Edit. This is simple spelling grammar and punctuation. The editor reads through the book correcting spelling mistakes, basic grammar and punctuation mistakes. This level of correction can make a big difference to the reader. Having punctuation marks in the right places improves the flow of the story and the reading experience, as does proper spelling. Spelling errors can be very distracting to any relatively-educated reader. This (copy edit) level of editing is critically important to any great book and is the last component in the editing process.


The second level is called Line Edit. The line edit works at the sentence or paragraph level, refining both sentence structure and flow. This may involve rewriting and reordering segments of text to improve readability and clarity. The editor will also address syntax and word choice to fix awkward sentence structures or other issues that can give your book that “unpolished” feel.


The first level of editing, the Story Edit, focuses on the bigger picture. Here the editor takes a much broader view of the book, looking at overall story-line and information flow. Are there inconsistencies from one chapter to another? Is there redundant information repeated throughout the chapters. This level of editing is especially helpful for new writers wanting to improve their writing style and produce a great book first time out. The story edit is generally done before any other editing, since it makes little sense to correct spelling and punctuation for segments that may be removed in a story edit. A story editor may begin to work with the author before any words hit the page.

At Cygnet we offer a full editing service and can even write your book for you if that's what you require. That's called Ghost Writing. Check out editing page for more information.