The Different Stages of Manuscript Editing and Why You Need Them All

Updated: Jul 10

The Different Stages of Manuscript Editing

There are many types and phases of manuscript editing. Proofreading, line edits and Content editing. Your book needs them all. Keep reading to learn why.

Many writers don't realize that there are different stages to manuscript editing. Editing is not just one pass through a manuscript, but multiple reads to ensure that the writing is error-free.

There are generally three stages, but some manuscripts will have additional steps in the editing process. Each step in the process requires a different type of editor, and costs for each step vary.

These are the stages of manuscript editing that you should know.

Substantive Editing

This is the most labor-intensive part of the editing process and takes the most time. This is the first pass through a manuscript before publication.

Substantive editing can be combined with structural editing, which would help with the development of a work. This process may make your work more descriptive or engaging.

After you've finished writing your work, an editor will read through and make changes and suggestions. Some sentences or paragraphs will get rearranged or cut entirely. There may be suggestions to expand on certain sections.

Your editor may find flaws in the plot that need to be fixed. There may also be inconsistencies within the manuscript that may need to be corrected.

After the substantive editing stage, the manuscript is sent back to the writer so that additional changes may be made. The writer will then work on the editor's suggestions for improvements.

Copy Editing

After a thorough edit and rewriting, a manuscript must be copy edited. In this part of the process, there aren't any suggestions or major changes made to the manuscript.

This part of manuscript editing focuses on grammar, structure, and style. It ensures that everything within the work is consistent and clear.

A good copy editor will also make changes to eliminate wordiness or awkward phrases to improve readability. However, there will be no changes to the writer's voice, tone, or content in this process.

After this stage in the editing process, the manuscript will be fully formed and may only have a few typos remaining.


The final stage before publication is proofreading. This is the fastest part of the editing process.

In this stage, a proofreader will read through the manuscript and find any mistakes in spelling or grammar that were missed in previous steps. There are no significant changes made at this stage.

A good proofreader will notice more than just typos. Some manuscripts have formatting problems, such as using different fonts, that need to be fixed before publication.

The idea of the proofreading stage is to ensure that the manuscript is perfect before being sent to the printers. After this process, the writer will not make any additional changes prior to publication.

Follow the Manuscript Editing Process to Improve Your Work

It's important to have an editor for your manuscript. No writer can create an error-free work without a little help. Even best-selling authors need an editor.

It is not possible to edit an entire manuscript all at once. It will take multiple reads and stages to prepare a work for publication.

To learn more about how we can help prepare your manuscript for publication, contact us.


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