If you’re prepping to labor over a big writing project, you’ve likely got a lot to consider. Maybe you’re hammering out the logistics of collaboration. Maybe you’re plotting your strategy to avoid self-handicapping during the writing process.
 
And maybe you’re considering hiring a professional editor. For a high-stakes project, the cost–benefit analysis of working with a professional editor is a no-brainer. The right editor will efficiently and exponentially improve your final product. Full stop.
 
But, as with any specialized professional, the more you understand about what an editor can do for you, the more satisfied you’ll be. So, what will the process look like, and what should you expect in the end? That depends on a few things—first, on the type of edit you’re hiring someone to perform.
 

  1. Developmental edit: If you’re looking for feedback on a draft-in-progress, a developmental (or substantive) edit may be what you need. Developmental editors will identify areas for development and elaboration, suggest ways to streamline structure, and suss out other big-picture concerns. If you need support with the creation, development, and tailoring of your content, a mid-process developmental edit might be the way to go.
  2. Line edit: If you have (or plan to have) a pretty complete draft but you want someone to address the writing style, language, and clarity, a line edit is for you. Line editors will improve overall readability at the paragraph and sentence level. If you’re confident in your content but need help making the document more engaging and audience-friendly, a line edit is likely for you.
  3. Copy edit: If you’re confident in the strength of the writing in your document but you want to give it professional polish, a copy edit is an all-important step. Copy editors will correct grammar, syntax, spelling, and punctuation; collate usage for internal consistency; and ensure adherence to style rules. Even if you think your document is perfect, chances are it would still (and often greatly) benefit from a copy edit.

 
While there’s not always a hard-and-fast line between the different types of edits (a handsy copy editor might tend to veer into line edit territory, for instance—self-identifying here), make sure that you know what kind of edit you need, and that you and your editor are on the same page about those needs.
 
In a future post, we’ll talk about what to expect in terms of the process of working with an editor.