Choosing a freelance editor: a guide to different types of editing services

By The Write Writing

If your business requires you to write newsletters; websites; brochures; advertising copy; media articles; press releases; proposals and submissions; year-end reports; conference materials; technical and scientific reports; business plans; marketing literature including blogs, you might just benefit by hiring a professional editor. Why?

Editors like us are trained specifically to help you polish your prose and make your business documents shine.

Editors are more than human spelling and grammar checkers, which are fine if you want to dash off a quick email or memo, but an editor can be essential when presenting your professional best to the world. Sure, you could give your project to an intern to proofread, or rely on running a quick spell-check, but interns aren’t necessarily training to be editors, and spell check can’t detect errors such as common errors such as mistaking ‘to’ for ‘two’ or ‘too’,  or ‘their’ when you meant ‘there’.

When you hire an editor, you need to determine a few things, the first of which is where you are in your writing process:

  • Do you have a completed project or manuscript or do you need to develop an idea?
  • Is this your first time writing this kind of project?
  • Is your project a rough draft?
  • Will you need ongoing editorial support, or is this a project with a finite timeline?

The second thing to consider is the type of editing you need. Since editing goes beyond simple proofreading, you need to answer these questions first. Then, once you know what your project looks like, you need to determine the level of editing needed. Not everyone is aware that there are different levels of editing, and it takes some discussion between you and your editor to determine exactly what your document needs. You may think that you just need simple proofreading, but what, exactly, does ‘simple’ proofreading entail? Here’s a guide to help you understand what your editor is talking about.

Types of Editing

Developmental Editing

Developmental editing is for ideas that are still in the rough stages, and may not be more than notes on a yellow pad. A developmental editor can help bring structure and organization to your project, whether you are looking to update your website or starting a company blog. (For online projects, look for an editor who also has at least some knowledge of SEO and/or UI, user interface design.) Our developmental editors can help you determine the hierarchy of your documents and have a working knowledge of most standard business documents.

If you are a CEO with an idea for a ground-breaking business book but do not know where to begin, a developmental editor can help you structure your topic so it flows logically and presents your brilliant ideas in their best light.

Expect to hire a developmental editor from inception to conclusion of your project.

Manuscript evaluation

If you already have a book-length manuscript (at least 75,000 words) ready, a seasoned editor will provide feedback. This is often where it is determined that you could use a developmental editor, or if you simply need a good copy editor because the quality of your prose is so exceptional. A manuscript evaluation will tell you whether you need to take the next step toward getting published, but does not necessarily imply a way ‘over the transom’, or into the hands of an editor who can guarantee a publishing contract.

Line editing

Line editing is a fine-tuning of the manuscript evaluation and gives more than a general critique of the book as a whole. A line editor judges flow and pacing, tone, the use of clichés and obtuse idioms. Line editing reveals run-on sentences as well as punctuation and grammar.


Copyediting is altogether different from line editing. Copyeditors check for everything the line editor looks for but the copyeditor also checks for style and format according to  a term that describes the specific rules for citations and formatting, such as that specified by the Chicago Manual of Style and the Associated Press (AP). Academic copyediting often has to follow the rules of the American Psychological Association(APA) or Modern Language Association (MLA). Professional journals often have in-house style guides that must be adhered to in a manuscript.


Proofreading is just what the name implies: reading the ‘proof’ – or test print – of a book complete with title page, contents, index, bibliography, etc. depending on whether the manuscript is fiction or nonfiction.

This is where a fresh set of eyes is good to have, so you do not necessarily want your copyeditor to be your proofreader. A proofreader will be able to identify any errors in typography such as missed or misplaced apostrophes, single and double quotes, periods, commas, and semicolons. The proofreader will also be able to identify errors in page numbering, or missing pages and continuity of pages and chapters; essentially, anything that was missed in the pre-press or printing process.

Many people use ‘copyediting’ and ‘proofreading’ interchangeably so make sure you are clear on what task you are hiring and editor to do.

Knowing what kind of editing your document needs will help you when starting out, and will allow you to budget accordingly.