As an editor, my services include:
- Manuscript assessments
- Structural and developmental editing
- Copyediting and line editing
What is a manuscript assessment?
This is the process before a structural edit and provides insight into your manuscript in the form of a detailed report. It provides an overview of the work with suggestions for your consideration. A manuscript assessment looks at the effectiveness of: the opening, plot, narrative voice, pace, characters, dialogue, back story, setting, point of view, style, repetition.
Typically, a report might be 8-10 pages, but it can depend on the length of the manuscript, with some reports being up to 15 pages.
What is a structural edit?
A structural edit (sometimes known as a substantive or developmental edit) covers three main areas and works on: structure, language and clarity in terms of the ‘big picture’. It aims to ensure the manuscript suits its intended audience.
Structure looks at:
- plot holes, consistency of themes, character structure, their arcs and the story’s arc. It is here that some editors concentrate on what can be referred to as developmental editing—developing the story
- whether the manuscript is complete in its information. Has information been brought into the story and then forgotten? Or, in cases of non-fiction, is there missing documentary evidence such as diagrams, photos etc. that would enhance the story?
- whether any rewriting needs doing (and who will do this). This can include expansions to develop the story and/or deletion of text if the writing becomes repetitive or drawn out.
Language looks at the:
- suitability for its audience
- effectiveness and appropriateness for the genre
- flow, repetition, clarity and consistency in style and tone
- whether each character’s language is consistent for their personality.
Clarity looks at:
- whether paragraphs are too long and would cause a reader to grow disinterested, including the amount of ‘white space’. White space is the spacing of paragraphs, scene breaks and chapters that give the reader’s eyes and mind a chance to ‘breathe’ or rest
- presentation and accuracy of headings, the appropriateness of chapter and scene breaks. This can include the moving of paragraphs, scenes or even chapters to create better flow within a manuscript
- the placement of supporting material such as maps and diagrams and for non-fiction, the inclusion of referencing is in the best place to support the text
- the use of abbreviations, symbols and glossary.
Structural editing often requires further rewriting and development of the story to ensure the ‘big picture’ is complete in all aspects possible.
Using a style sheet at the structural editing stage:
Depending on the manuscript, it can be very important to have a style sheet, particularly when the next stage in the editing process is copyediting.
A style sheet records all the required ‘settings’ a manuscript will adhere to, such as the style manual and dictionary to be used, heading styles, font type and size, and spelling protocol. And while some editors create this at the copyediting stage, it is often beneficial to start creating a style sheet at the structural editing stage as it is here that decisions as to a manuscript or document’s look and feel can be determined, noted and followed.
For fiction works, this would apply to more complex stories that may have an unfamiliar setting and/or many characters. For non-fiction, particularly family histories, a style sheet sets out a preferred use of spelling, formatting and presentation of photos and charts. In both instances a style sheet ensures consistency and clarity.
A style sheet is also particularly useful at the final stage of proofreading to ensure the manuscript represents the author or publisher’s printing requirements.
If you are wanting a style sheet created at the time of a structural edit please let me know so that it can be incorporated into the editing process.
What is copyediting/line editing?
Both copyediting and line editing look at the finer detail which is often why editors will combine the two when working on a manuscript at this stage. However, if you wish to concentrate on just one area at a time, this is achievable.
Line editing looks at the clarity, consistency and flow of each sentence within the paragraph. Is the author using the best possible words to express what they mean or are they confusing the reader? Could they say it another way? Has the use of incorrect facts jarred the reader? For example, a story set in Australia in 1965 mentions the currency as being dollars and cents. For this reason, it is not unusual for an issue at the line editing stage to have also occurred in the structural/developmental stage, but with a minor detail missed. It is also at the line editing stage that I concentrate on formatting and visual consistency, especially when it comes to the setting out of dialogue.
Copyediting looks at the manuscript from a finer, more detailed, word-level focus, with minimal rewriting taking place. It checks:
- the clarity of language through the syntax (arrangement of words and phrases), ensuring grammar, spelling, hyphenation and punctuation are correct
- the application of the relevant style guide, ensuring consistency of language in terms of names, abbreviations and terms, numbers and, if required, references
- consistency in terms of visual appeal. Are the correct level headings used? Does the layout of the tables, figures, diagrams etc. show the correct caption attributions?
- whether the facts are correct? Following a style sheet helps to ensure the appropriate names, places, companies, legislative acts, industry standards etc. are used.
What is proofreading?
It is important to understand the difference between copyediting and proofreading.
Proofreading is the final check when a manuscript or document is ready for print. At this stage, there is no rewriting of any sort. Mistakes are looked for so that they can be corrected. The final pre-print copy is checked against the copy that required the changes and looks to ensure:
- all copyediting edits have been made
- all pages and sections/headings are in the correct order
- there are no word-breaks at the end of lines or spelling/punctuation mistakes
- the style sheet has been followed
- the page layout is correct (widows/orphans within text, tables aren’t split, photos are not pixelated, diagrams and photos are correctly numbered, captioned and cross-referenced)
- any instructions for the printer are recorded.
Please note I do not cater for academic editing
There are strict guidelines regarding academic editing and information for students and supervisors can be found at: http://iped-editors.org/About_editing/Editing_theses.aspx