The 3 Types of Editing Explained by a Managing Editor

The Three Types of Editing Explained

By Zoe Hale - Managing Editor of Impact Press and Ventura Press

So you’ve just written your book. It may have taken five long years of writing after work, writing on weekends, and countless cups of tea (or glasses of wine). You’ve read and re-read, tweaked and tinkered, and finally finished it.

But before it can be published, your book will need another pair of eyes to look over it and give it an edit. And yes, this means more than just using Microsoft Word spellcheck! So, what types of editing can you expect your book to experience?

1. STRUCTURAL EDITING

Structural or substantive editing looks at the purpose of your book, be it to entertain, inform, persuade, or educate, and makes sure the structure and layout of the book aligns with the purpose. 

During a structural edit the editor will ensure that the information in your book is appropriate, complete, and whether additional material is needed (including a glossary or index). The edit will also determine if there should be any rearrangement or rewriting of the text, including whether sections should be expanded or summarised.

A structural edit will also ensure the language is consistent and appropriate for the audience, making sure there is logical flow and clarity in the presentation of ideas.

Structural editing also checks the clarity of presentation, looking at heading levels, tables and figures, and that appropriate referencing is included.

Not every book will need a structural edit, but this can be especially valuable for books with lots of headings and subheadings, specialist non-fiction books, and novels that are lengthy or contain a cast of characters and a host of plots and sub-plots.

2. COPYEDITING

Copyediting focuses on the appropriate use of language, consistency, accuracy, references, and conformity with the style guide. This means an editor will make sure grammar, syntax, spelling and punctuation is correct, and there is clarity of expression. It should not involve significant rewriting or restructuring, but may involve some rewording.

Copyediting also involves ensuring the consistency of both language and visual elements in your book, including capitalisation, terms used, abbreviations, typography, heading hierarchy, tables and captions.

Every book before it is published needs a copyedit, though the level of this may vary between light, medium and heavy depending on the writing and the topic.

3. PROOFREADING

Proofreading is the last stage before publication, and ensures quality control before your book sets foot in the world. It involves checking the integrity of your book, and ensuring all parts of it are complete and consistent, including the preliminary matter (such as cover, copyright and publication information), the body of the book (all text, tables, illustrative, labels and captions, footnotes and endnotes) and the end matter (such as appendixes, glossary, and bibliography).

A proofreader will also check for spelling, typographical or punctuation errors, that there are appropriate word breaks at ends of lines, and accurate cross-referencing.  They will also check your book conforms to the house style of the publisher, ensure consistency in terminology, spelling, hyphenation, capitalisation, abbreviations and acronyms, use of italics, heading hierarchies, and the style of numbers, dates, percentages, symbols and equations.

Finally, a proofreader will also eliminate typographical errors such as widows, orphans or rivers, check that tables are not split when this can be avoided, and check for correct alignment, spacing, and bold type.

Every book that is published will undergo a proofread once it has been typeset and a final layout has been established. This is the last stage before publication and ensures your book is of the highest possible quality before it is sent into the world and the reader’s hands.

How do you know which edit your book needs?

An Impact Press editor will be able to determine the level of editing your book needs, and how much time this will take. They will work with you to make sure your book reaches its full potential and is clear for the reader. Finishing writing your book is only the beginning!

For more information on the different levels of editors, visit the Institute of Professional Editors (IPEd), the national professional association for Australian editors. The above definitions on the different types of editing have been adapted from their definitions of the 3 types of editing.


With nearly a decade of experience in editing and publishing, Zoe Hale is passionate about the written word and loves working closely with authors to see their stories come alive on the page.

Zoe is Vice-President of Editors NSW and brings her extensive knowledge of editing, proofreading, and a perfectionist eye for detail to every facet of the editing and production process – from draft manuscript to printing.