Author George Orwell wrote:
“Good prose is like a window pane.”

Editor Antonia Morton says:
“Good editing is like a squirt of Windex.”

Edit Levels

How thorough do you want us to be?

Some documents need more intensive input than others, so the work we editors do is commonly divided into five levels:

Here’s what each level involves. For a visual look at the process, view the Edit Demo.

Once you decide what you need, our Request for Services lets you customize your edit.

Proofreading is, technically speaking, the comparing of one page proof with another; but the term is now almost universally used to mean the latest and lightest level of editing. Generally, work is proofread just before it’s sent to the printer – by which time it’s usually too late to tinker with grammar or structure. This is the last-chance edit, and the proofreader is usually the final buffer between the writer and the reading public. Material that's been proofread usually has no more than three or four minor corrections per page.

Copy editing is what most people mean when they ask for “editing.” It means finding and correcting all errors in spelling, word use, grammar, punctuation, style, and consistency; flagging any problems for review by the writer; and making sure that the text is laid out properly – that one heading looks the same as the next, and that formatting is consistent. Depending on the quality of the original, a copy edit may include dozens of corrections per page.

Stylistic editing, as the name implies, is all about “style” – a quality we may not be able to define, but we know when it’s missing. This type of editing refers to the many fixes an editor may make in order to clarify meaning, improve flow, and smooth language. It includes tasks like breaking long or complex sentences into shorter ones; “activating” the passive voice; and rewriting to resolve any ambiguities. It also involves making sure the language is appropriate for the intended audience, and that the tone and authorial voice are consistent. A stylistic edit can look as though the page is covered with blue ink.

Structural editing (also called substantive editing) is even more thorough. One major difference is this: a copy editor corrects what IS there, but a structural editor also checks for what’s NOT there – a transition between one topic and another, a missing step in an argument, a gap in the information provided, etc. This deep-level editing usually involves restructuring the text to make it flow better, reorganizing material to better effect, and so on. Sections may also be cut, if they don’t contribute to the flow of the piece. For a structural edit we often break up pages into single paragraphs, to make sure that all the corrections are readable.

Rewriting involves transforming old text into new material. A document may need rewriting for a variety of reasons:

  • The original may have been created for a specific audience – a conference of economists, for example – and now needs to be adapted for a general readership.
  • Copy for a report may have been provided by a dozen writers, but the finished document should have a “common look and feel.” If a single person rewrites the material, it sounds more unified.
  • An organization or department may want its printed or online material to be rewritten in Plain Language – free from jargon or formality – to make it more accessible.
  • A journalist may want to repurpose a previously published article, and needs to make sure the new version doesn’t look too similar to the old one.
  • Sometimes, text is just so poorly expressed that the only way to fix it is to completely rewrite it.

During a rewrite, Track Changes is usually turned off. There are too many changes to follow, and clients are more interested in the end result than in the process.

If you decide you need a writer rather than an editor, visit the Writing page.

(View the industry standards for proofreading, copy editing, stylistic editing and structural editing on the Editors’ Association of Canada website.)

Whether your project needs a minor tweak or a major intervention, we make it look better.

© 2013 Clear Text Editorial Services