Author Topic: What is all this editing anyway?  (Read 248 times)

Cabbages and kings

What is all this editing anyway?
« on: July 25, 2021, 02:53:58 PM »

Hi everyone. :)

There seems to be a lot of confusion about the different types of editing and critiquing, so I started this discussion as a place where people can write what these things mean to them.

Let me know if I'm missing one. :)

Of course there will be overlaps and some of these may even be the same thing with different names, feel free to group them as you please.


What do these mean to you?

Alpha Reader

Beta Reader

Critique Partner

Line Editing

Copy Editing

Proofreading

Developmental Editing

Content Editing

Substantive Editing

Structural Editing

 

PJ Post

Re: What is all this editing anyway?
« Reply #1 on: July 25, 2021, 11:03:04 PM »
Alpha Reader / Beta Reader / Critique Partner

Generalized second opinion.


Line Editing

Sentence level clarity and function.


Copy Editing

Narrative consistency and flow from scene to scene.


Proofreading

Spelling, grammar and punctuation check.


Developmental Editing / Content Editing / Substantive Editing / Structural Editing

Overall story coherence and the bits that make it work as a narrative.
 
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LilyBLily

Re: What is all this editing anyway?
« Reply #2 on: July 26, 2021, 12:18:11 AM »
"Narrative consistency and flow from scene to scene."

As a longtime professional copyeditor, I dispute the definition above.

The copyeditor looks for bad grammar, unclear sentence structure and punctuation, politically incorrect terminology ("sex" instead of "gender"; "he" when it should be "they" or "he or she" or alternating), outdated spellings or word usage ("Web site"), wrongly spelled or capitalized or italicized technical terminology, wrongly abbreviated terms, inconsistent use of terminology or preferred spelling of a term from chapter to chapter (especially if in a text with multiple authors), how dialogues or boxes or sidebars are presented, credited, and punctuated, the numbering of figures and the like, the captioning, and more of the same.

Whether in a work of nonfiction or fiction, the copyeditor does not mess with narrative consistency or flow or make comments on it. Only at a sentence or paragraph level would the copyeditor dispute something presented as fact that is not supported by the text properly (in the sentence structure, by footnotes, etc.) or is--in relatively rare cases--completely unsupported by any scholarship and reading like myth. The copyeditor would not change these out of hand, but would make comments urging a rewrite, most often a rewrite for clarity. If the author's point is made circuitously in the same paragraph or is substantially repeated, the copyeditor would comment on that. Comment, not change. Suggest which sentence to remove, but not remove it.   

In fiction, attention would be paid to spelling, correct usages of words to their real definitions (no "disinterested" for "uninterested," no "flaunt" for "flout"), the punctuation of dialogue, to all character or place names remaining consistent throughout, and to the kind of punctuation used. Excessive use of dashes, for instance, would be noted in both nonfiction and fiction, as would any other sentence punctuation that makes the text hard to read. If every sentence starts with "So" or "But," the copyeditor should change it in nonfiction and only suggest changes in fiction or ignore it as a style choice by the author. Similarly, if an author seems to be deliberately using nonstandard capitalization or hyphenation for a term consistently throughout the story, the copyeditor could question it, but should not change it out of hand. However, if a plot makes no sense or a character acts out of character, it's not the copyeditor's job to note that. Dramatic flow from scene to scene also is the business of a different level of editing. Malapropisms, commas where they don't belong, and other technical issues including spelling (even after Spellcheck) are the copyeditor's meat.   

The proofreader is the last line of defense for malapropisms and careless spelling corrections ("poured over" for "pored over"; "grizzly" for "grisly") as well as for typos, if these were not caught at the copyediting stage. The proofreader should not change sentence structure or "correct" what the proofreader views as poor writing.

I am well aware that many people hanging out shingles as copyeditors and proofreaders today do not adhere to these standards, but these are what traditional publishing professionals do and have done for decades. There's more, of course. That's why the Chicago Manual of Style is a very long book.
 
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elleoco

Re: What is all this editing anyway?
« Reply #3 on: July 26, 2021, 08:32:52 AM »
Alpha reader - someone who reads and gives feedback on a first draft or at least very early draft of a work.

Beta reader - someone who reads and gives feedback on the final draft of a work, or at least what was the final draft before that feedback. Grin

Critique partner - someone you exchange pieces of a work with as it's written, say a given number of pages per week. IME this started out as first draft stuff but then often progressed to revisions of what the partner already saw.

PJ Post

Re: What is all this editing anyway?
« Reply #4 on: July 26, 2021, 10:28:43 PM »
"Narrative consistency and flow from scene to scene."

As a longtime professional copyeditor, I dispute the definition above...

When I say narrative consistency and flow, I mean the flow of words (how the writer is communicating), which includes most everything you mentioned, except, none of the editors I've worked with proofread.

It's also my understanding that copy editing and line editing are often used interchangeable these days. However, in my experience, line editing is mostly worried about individual 'line' clarity and copy editing is mostly worried about all of the other word stuff. Perhaps it might be better to say that line editors worry about accurate/better communication at the granular level and copy editors worry about non-story beat mechanics.
 

LilyBLily

Re: What is all this editing anyway?
« Reply #5 on: July 26, 2021, 11:05:13 PM »
"Narrative consistency and flow from scene to scene."

As a longtime professional copyeditor, I dispute the definition above...

When I say narrative consistency and flow, I mean the flow of words (how the writer is communicating), which includes most everything you mentioned, except, none of the editors I've worked with proofread.

It's also my understanding that copy editing and line editing are often used interchangeable these days. However, in my experience, line editing is mostly worried about individual 'line' clarity and copy editing is mostly worried about all of the other word stuff. Perhaps it might be better to say that line editors worry about accurate/better communication at the granular level and copy editors worry about non-story beat mechanics.

Copyeditors can be foolish enough to rewrite the incoherent words of a subject matter expert, but that's way more than a copyeditor should do, and a ms. should not reach the copyeditor in that dreadful condition overall, either. It's also extremely dangerous to do it because, not being a subject matter expert, the copyeditor may introduce factual errors. When we read about the process that important literary figures have had with their editors, there's often a lot of discussion line for line and word for word, but it's not about mechanics and it's not a copyeditor that's doing the editing. It's a line or acquisitions editor (the distinction there is that some acquisitions editors do the line editing, too, but some line editors are not acquisitions editors). I can't stop people from being confused about these roles, but they are very different. Obviously so, in nonfiction. Not perhaps as obviously in fiction.

The important thing for indie authors to understand is if they hire a copyeditor, that person should not rewrite their story, nor should the author expect it. Expectations should be discussed in detail in advance, and a sample edit of five pages or so from the middle of the story should assure that both parties know what they are dealing with and what they have agreed to.

Things do change, of course. For instance, today's proofreads are mostly "cold reads" of a single digital file instead of comparing physical typeset galleys against a physical copyedited ms. Spellcheck can eliminate many typos--but also introduce malapropisms and other errors if the person doing the spelling check doesn't know the words in question or is careless. The proofreader's command of vocabulary is now much more important than it was before, because "grizzly" is spelled right but is the wrong word to describe a "grisly murder." And so on. This is popping up all over today even in books from small presses.