When someone asks you to edit something for them they are usually asking you to check for spelling and grammatical errors, but that is just one small part of what editing really is. There are actually four steps to the editing process and each step may require numerous revisions.
It is necessary for every document to go through each of these steps to ensure that your manuscript is the best it possibly can be. It is in the author’s best interest to do so because it will make them appealing to the reader and thus creating a fan base. It is in the publishing company’s best interest because the better the book, the more they sell, and the more profit to be made.
So here are the four steps of editing you must go through before putting your book in print.
Substantive editing is about developing the story. It requires analyzing the manuscript in a way that ensures it will be easily coherent to the reader.
Questions to Ask: Does the story itself make sense? Is the content well-written and interesting? Are the scenes organized in a way is logical and helps move the story forward? Is there any information that is needed? Are any unnecessary details?
Line or Language editing has some cross-over between substantive editing and copyediting, as it is about taking a closer look at the story. It is the act of ensuring each word and line and paragraph is the best it possibly can be.
Questions to Ask: Does this sentence make sense by itself? Is there a better way this can be said? Does this mean what the author is actually trying to say? Does this sentence make sense with the paragraph? Should it be moved within the paragraph? Does this paragraph make sense? Should this paragraph be moved within the scene?
Copyediting is getting down to the nit-picky details. It involves checking that each word is correctly spelled, each punctuation mark is accurate and varied, and the style is always consistent and matching the house style.
Questions to Ask: Is each word spelled right? Is this the best word to use for this reading level/genre? Are the names of real people spelled correctly? Are there any redundant words? Is this word or sentence in the correct tense? Is this the right punctuation to use? Are there any slang words or jargon or foreign phrases that should be changed? Are sentences or paragraphs too long or too short?
Proofreading checks the final draft before it goes to print to make sure it is accurate. Each change can cost the publishing company a lot of money because the printer has already prepared the manuscript for printing.
Questions to Ask: Did all the required changes get made? Are the pages in the correct order and numbered properly? Is the typography and structure consistent? Are there any words that are on its own line at the end of a paragraph or starting a new page? Are all illustrations captioned correctly? Is each page aesthetically pleasing?