Editorial Skills

 Structural and substantive editing


Structural and substantive editing is an edit that looks at the bigger picture of a text. It involves looking at the content and organization of a text: is material well organized and easy to follow? Is there enough information for your target reader (or too much information for your target reader)? Could some information be better communicated by a table or graph? Is the level of writing appropriate for your target reader? Would the text work better with (or without) illustrations?

Stylistic editing & Copy editing

Stylistic and copy editing zoom in on the writing. The focus at this stage is on grammar, spelling, punctuation — what are often described as the “mechanics of style.” Copy editing also involves revising a text so that the language (terminology in particular) and level of writing are consistent throughout. Sometimes the copy edit may also involve pointing out gaps in the content or logic in a text. The author is responsible for addressing these gaps.

Some copy editors – and I’m one of them – also do some fact-checking at this stage. I double-check:
  • that dates are correct 
  • that spellings of names and organizations are correct
  • that names and job titles match up
  • that telephone numbers and addresses are correct
  • that URLs are live
          Please note that not every copy editor does this.

Proofreading (French and English)

Proofreading is a final read-through of a text before it goes live or goes to print. In theory, this involves checking primarily for typesetting problems (bad line or page breaks, errors in running heads or footers, for example) and any outstanding spelling or grammar problems. In practice, it frequently involves sending a list of final queries to the author to be sure that everything is as it should be. I also like to do some fact-checking at this stage (it usually begins as a spot check that facts are accurate) as a final precaution. Again, please note that not all proofreaders will spot-check facts.

Editing translations and cross-reading

Editing translations and cross-reading are two different processes. Editing a translation involves making sure the text reads naturally. Cross-reading involves reading a source text against a translation to ensure that both texts are saying the same thing.

Translation (French to English)

Some projects will involve a combination of different editorial skills.


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