As mentioned elsewhere, the great irony of professional editing is that no two people or organizations seem to use quite the same definitions to describe various types of editing, nor can anyone seem to agree on where exactly one type of editing leaves off and another begins. The most important thing is that the editor and the client are in agreement about the scope of work to be done. Click on a service below to view a brief discussion unpacking each term, but keep in mind that everything is customizable to the needs of your project.

Developmental Editing

Developmental editing looks at the big picture. It addresses issues relating to organization, content, and anything that might result in significant revisions if adjusted later in the writing process. It is also sometimes referred to as content editing.

In fiction (and some creative nonfiction) a developmental editor will look at issues with narrative arc, overall style, voice, character development, and pacing to name a few.

In nonfiction the editor will consider structure, content, overall style, voice, clarity, and the flow of ideas.

Developmental editing should occur earlier in the editing process, as there is no point in fussing with commas, hyphens, and other copyediting tasks if a good deal of text stands to be added, omitted, revised, or moved around.

+ How does it work?

Developmental editing is an organic process intricately intertwined with the craft of writing, and its success is dependent upon effective communication between author and editor. As such, I believe that the author’s own writing habits and preferences should be the determining factor for establishing the most effective approach and format for feedback.

Developmental editing might be based on a full or partial draft, or may even begin with an outline. Feedback can be given as either a written analysis in report form, as markup in the manuscript itself, or some combination thereof. It can also take place on an hourly basis for those who would like ongoing consultation through the generation of a draft. Some people, for instance, may wish to work chapter by chapter. It may also involve the creation of separate documents, such as a reverse chronology. There are pros and cons to any given approach, but if you have an established preference, I am happy to accommodate it. I can also make a recommendation based on your own writing habits. Once the initial pass is done, I am happy to accommodate short follow-up emails and up to an hour of phone consultation free of charge as you consider my feedback.

+ How do I know if I need this service?

Perhaps an agent or acquisitions editor has suggested that some developmental work is in order. (Believe it or not, that is a good sign—it means they actually read what you submitted and found your ideas worthwhile.) Perhaps your own instincts or reader feedback has suggested to you that your draft is not as strong as it could be. Maybe you are having trouble with certain passages, a certain character, or something just doesn’t feel quite right. Or maybe you’ve been working on your project for so long that you simply cannot tell what is good anymore, and you are not able to get the in-depth feedback you need from your beta readers or writing group. If you are just not sure, I am happy to make an assessment for you. At any rate, don’t give up on a compelling idea simply because you’ve encountered roadblocks or settle for an okay product when it could be great. On the other hand, it is not worth spending money on if you are not open to putting in the time required for potentially significant revisions. (However, do note that taking a brief break from writing while the editing is happening can be all that is needed to revitalize your enthusiasm for a stalled project, especially when followed by clear, professional feedback.)

Line and Substantive Editing

Line editing is a line-by-line pass through a work to optimize language at the sentence level. It also looks at the relationship between sentences and paragraphs, which may be reordered to improve flow. Some may refer to this service as substantive editing. For projects with minimal work to be done at this level, it may be appropriate to combine this work with a heavy copyedit; it is best to reserve a pass for line editing alone when there is enough work to do that it does not make sense to spend time imposing consistent style just yet.

+ How does it work?

You provide the draft of your project and it comes back to you marked up. You then accept or reject the suggestions, or revise to suit your own preferences. A follow-up pass may be useful if significant new text was introduced, but since a copyedit should follow, there is no real need for a clean-up pass unless specifically desired.

+ How do I know if I need this service?

If you are concerned that your point is not being communicated as effectively as you would like, you find yourself frequently questioning your sentence composition, or the piece does not always seem to flow smoothly and logically, it probably needs something beyond just copyediting.


Copyediting is a line-by-line pass through a work to eliminate error and impose consistent style. Copyediting varies by degree: heavy, medium (standard), and light. When determining the level of edit, consider not only the amount of corrections needed, but also the types of corrections and comments you would like the editor to make. Most works should undergo at least a standard copyedit, whereas a light edit would be most appropriate for works that have been previously edited, such as a second edition. A heavier edit, by contrast, addresses more nuanced language issues and will often include more numerous re-cast sentences. I think of the degrees of copyediting as existing on a spectrum of egregiousness, with light copyediting on one end (imposing consistent style and addressing egregious error only), while medium copyediting is a wide mid-range that does everything that a light edit does, while also addressing less egregious error, non-errors that nonetheless violate agreed upon norms, and increasingly, as one moves toward the heavy end of the spectrum, identifying opportunities for improvement, even when an error is not, strictly speaking, present. A useful analogy from the business world might be the spectrum on which formal policy and best practice coexist.

+ How does it work?

You provide the draft of your project and it comes back to you marked up. You then accept or reject the suggestions and answer any questions that are holding up possible edits. At that point, either you or I can complete the “clean up” pass (making sure all changes were applied and that changes that were rejected or amended were not retained).

+ How do I know if I need this service?

In an ideal world, pretty much everything that is printed or published online would be at least copyedited. You should certainly consider it if it is important to you to project a professional appearance.

Ghost Writing

Ghost writing is writing for hire at someone else’s direction with no claim to formal authorship. Memoirs, for instance, are often written by professional writers based on interviews with the subject. This is different from an authorized biography in that the subject is the motivator behind the project, has specific ideas for the angle and approach, and wants creative control—and the work is presented as the subject’s own words. The idea is that sometimes a writer can present a non-writer’s outlook more accurately than that person can—or perhaps that person is simply too busy to do it.

Ghost writing can also be a component of some editing work. For example, when a work with multiple authors is heavily edited to make the parts written by different people sound like the same person, the scale of the revisions can result in what is basically ghost writing of some passages.

+ How does it work?

Some projects can be done more autonomously than others, but in the end it depends on what it will take to satisfy your vision. A full memoir, for instance, might take several interview sessions, follow up communication, and multiple reviews of portions of text. Other projects can be much simpler. To start with, you tell me what you’re looking for, we’ll develop a plan together based on what would be needed to realize your vision, and then I’ll get down to some serious writing.

+ How do I know if I need this service?

You’ve got a story to tell or idea to spread, but you’re too busy to deal with the nuts and bolts of putting pen to paper. Or maybe writing just isn’t your thing—so let me do it! You can give some basic direction and let me take it from there or be heavily involved in the process, according to your preference. In the end, it will be your voice echoing through to the readers.


I bill primarily by the project, though I am open to billing by the hour or by retainer when it makes sense. It’s hard to discuss flat rates because every project is different, so the best thing to do is to ask for an estimate based on word count and scope of work. My rates are based on the Editorial Freelancers Association suggested rates (the low end of ranges listed, in most cases) and the time a project takes (though I do hold myself accountable for meeting reasonable industry standards for pace, regardless for how long it might take me personally).


Though there is never a guarantee of success in publishing, I promise to treat your project with the same care as if it were my own. Nothing makes me happier than the success of a project I’ve collaborated on, and it is my dearest wish that the collaboration process itself be as enjoyable as possible for you. It can be a cold world out there, but I still believe in compassion and integrity in business. I will bring the best I have to bat for you, on time and on budget.