Editorial services

Substantive or structural editing

Substantive editing involves a review of the work in its entirety, checking its organisation, structure, content, language and style in relation to the intended readership. A structural editor often works at the early stages of developing a manuscript. The brief should specify whether suggested changes are to be drafted by the editor or the author.

Copy editing

Copy editing concentrates on the language and consistency of ‘the copy’ — the text and illustrations. It includes:

  • editing for grammar, spelling, punctuation and other mechanics of style
  • checking for internal consistency of presentation and facts
  • marking heading levels and approximate placement of art
  • highlighting copyright and legal issues
  • and highlighting any unusual design and production requirements.

It may also involve incorporating the client/author’s replies to queries. The brief should specify whether this work is to be included in the copy editing fee or performed for an additional fee.


Proofreading involves checking the document before printing for the correction of errors that may have been introduced or missed in the editing process. It includes:

  • reading typeset copy word-for-word against a manuscript or stylesheet
  • identifying inconsistencies of style for correction and querying editorial errors
  • checking conformity to type specifications
  • creating a stylesheet
  • checking typography (kerning, margins, word spacing, repetitive word breaks).

Manuscript assessment and development

Some editors provide the type of advice and feedback that publishers do not have time for and hence, they may have to reject the manuscript. Some writers may wish to have their manuscript assessed before submitting it to a publisher; others seek assessment if they have received several rejection slips and don’t understand why their work has not been accepted.

Assessment can be based on reading the whole manuscript or a representative section, advising on stylistic matters and (if requested) commercial potential, and offering general advice on development.

Plain English rewriting

Editors may rewrite complex, bureaucratic, academic or technical material so the meaning is clear to a general reader.

Publishing consultancy/production management

Editors can also advise on other aspects of the publishing process, including:

  • deciding on the most appropriate form in which to publish your work
  • how to prepare text and images for production
  • identifying issues of defamation, libel or copyright where you might need to protect yourself.

If you are self-publishing, you may want an editor/publishing consultant to manage all or part of the process on your behalf. Some editors offer full self-publishing assistance and will oversee the entire production process. They can liaise with designers and printers. Editors advise on ISBN, barcode, CiP, National Library requirements, copyright, permissions and other legal concerns.

Project managers organise the entire production of a publishing project, including hiring staff, supervising work, liaising and budgeting.