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Line Editing vs Copyediting

The difference between line editing and copyediting

Did you know that there are different types of editing? Two of the most popular methods of editing are line editing and copyediting. These two editing styles do have some similarities. They pay attention to your use of language and grammar, for example, and the corrections noted are marked on the pages of a manuscript. Yet there are also some key differences which must be examined so that when you need an editor, you get one that will give your manuscript the polished result you want to have.

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What Is Line Editing?

If a manuscript is going through line editing, then the content being addressed is your writing style, the creativity within your words, and the word structures of your sentences and paragraphs. The goal isn’t to find the grammatical mistakes or other small errors that might be lurking in your manuscript. It will look at the style of language you are using to communicate with the reader.

Some authors can do their own first-level line editing at home by asking themselves 3 important questions about their manuscript.

  • Is the language of the manuscript clear and does it contain logical transitions so that the document is fun to read?
  • Are the words chosen in such a way that a precise meaning is interpreted by the reader or are general language terms used?
  • Does the language and structure of the manuscript help to convey the right emotion and tone to the reader?

When line editing a document, the goal is to create consistency within the structures of each paragraph so there is harmony throughout the content. Even the best authors can find themselves chasing narrative digressions, tonal shifts, or redundant phrasings that would irritate a majority of readers. Suggestions for clarity within the words and phrases may be suggested as well.

Hearing the feedback from a line editor can be very challenging for many writers. This feedback is also an easy way to gain some creative tools for a writer’s toolbox so the next manuscript written can be even better than the current one.

Now this doesn’t mean that line editing won’t catch certain technical errors within a manuscript and recommend correcting them. Many line editors will catch issues with misspelled words and some capitalization issues, but may not give you the crisp grammatical usage that a final draft will require before it’s published.

That is the job of the copyeditor.

What Is Copyediting?

Copyediting is that standard form of editing that most writers think about. It’s goal is to address the technical flaws of a manuscript at several different levels so the creative work can meet or exceed industry standards. It’s like proof-reading, but on an enormous level.

Here’s why: copyediting corrects your grammar, punctuation, and syntax mistakes. It will make sure all of your words are correctly spelled. Hyphenation, capitalization, and even how you use numbers within the document will be examined. Any incorrect statements will be flagged for correction and the entire document will be checked for consistency.

Think about it like this: if a writer at the beginning of a story says that the main character has black hair, but then in a descriptive moment says the character is combing their blonde hair, copyediting would point that out so it could be corrected.

Because copyediting is looking at the specific grammatical rules of language within the context of your manuscript, it should always take place after line editing has been completed. It would be a disservice to do a line-by-line check for consistency through copyediting to then need to go back and change some of the creative content. You’d have to then copyedit the changes recommended by the line editing, forcing a third edit before the manuscript makes it to the general editor.

Most writers will need to have both line editing and copyediting to create a flowing manuscript that fully engages the reader. Needing this editing service is not a reflection on the quality of an author’s skill. Every writer needs an editor to take a second look at the words which have been written. It is a harmonious relationship between the technical and creative side of writing that creates work that is consistently accurate from all language standpoints.

Melissa G Wilson

Melissa has been a leader in the book writing, publishing and marketing arena for the past two decades. To date, she has helped more than 100 thought leaders write, publish and market their books. Her clients include executives such as Dan Weinfurter a seven-time Inc 500 winner and Orlando Ashford, President of Holland Cruise Lines.

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