The continuum and practice of professional editing extends from the arts to the sciences.

Effective editors know why and how to assess the rhetorical context, tools, and techniques for use on a manuscript (MS) within a framework consisting of the rhetorical situation together with the ten types and five levels of editing.

To be professionally published, authors need to understand what editors do and why they edit. Moreover, in today’s publishing models, authors are increasing asked to pay for each type of editing. Such fees need to be included in funding proposals, and that inclusion requires justification of the fees and information about the proposed editor.

Depending on the relationships of author-to-editor and editor-to-publisher—a shifting relationship during the writing and publishing processes—five broad types editing can be described:

Author’s editing

The author hires the editor to be first and foremost a writing coach. The author’s editor may do developmental editing, that is, create a proposal and project management plan for the manuscript. The author’s editor may artfully edit a manuscript for integrity and consistency at the behest of the author before it is submitted to the publisher. The author’s editor insures the author’s writing conveys the intended message or story, is clear and correct, and complies with the intended publisher’s guidelines. The author typically pays the editor, usually through a billed time-and-materials contract per manuscript.


The publisher hires the copyeditor to review the manuscript for compliance to the house’s policies and guidelines as well as checking clarity for the reader. Copyeditors insure consistently correct grammar, punctuation, and house style. Copyeditors check that documents contain all required parts of the MS (abstract, keywords, section headings, acknowledgments, references, disclaimers, etc.), and they oversee the correct assignment of pages, table and figure numbers, indexes. The publisher typically hires the copyeditor as an employee or as a freelance copyeditor under a billed-time contract for multiple manuscripts.

Comprehensive editing

The publisher hires an editor to specifically prepare the manuscript for publication, which includes formatting the manuscript for the outlet. Print editors may also clarify the copy by suggesting ways to improve visuals or consolidate duplicate information in a manuscript; electronic manuscripts may be marked up for online distribution and archiving. Comprehensive editors also correct manuscripts for mechanical style and for consistent use of language, especially the “jargon” specific to a discipline. Comprehensive editors most often are employed by the publisher.

Substantive editing

The most extensive and expensive type of editing, substantive editing may include aspects of all other types. Substantive editors can be employed by author or by publisher, usually on a per manuscript basis, and work under contract to perform specified tasks on a billed time-and-materials contract.

Technical editing

Two types of technical editing are defined by profession and by practice

  • Editing of technical documents to an organizational standard.
    Technical editors maintain the style guide for an institution, train its authors to the style guide, oversee the production of manuals, instructions, and other technical documents, and ensure that the information in the documents is technically correct and consistent. Technical editors emphasize the document in relation to the end user, enabling that user to act on the information in the document.
  • Editing of content to be appropriate for the technology through which the information will be distributed. 
    Film editors and videographers, website developers, printers, and audio editors, for example, edit similar content differently to standards appropriate to the media within which that content is made public—the definition of “published”.

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