Substantive, Copyediting, and Proofreading

There are many different types of editing involved in the production of a printed book. Here is a brief breakdown of the editing process:

1) Substantive Editing: The substantive edit is generally the first edit done on a new manuscript. This is a big picture edit that addresses major structural, plot, and content issues of the manuscript. At this stage in the editorial process major changes can be made to the manuscript, including cutting chapters or reorganizing sections of the book.

2) Line Editing: The second stage of editing is the line edit. The line edit refers to a line by line edit of a manuscript that addresses issues concerning tone, language use, clichés, and quality of writing.

3) Copyediting: The third edit is generally the copyedit. The copyedit addresses grammar, punctuation, spelling, and use of abbreviations. Copyeditors either write directly on the printed manuscript using a red pen and their handwritten copyediting symbols or they may use Microsoft Word of Adobe Acrobat to do digital copyedits.

4) Proofreading: The last stage of the editing process is proofreading. Proofreaders look for smaller errors that may appear unsightly on the printed page. For example proofreaders looks for widows and orphans (see definitions below).  They also look for pagination issues, line breaks, and any spelling or grammatical issues that may have been missed in the other edits. The proofreaders do the final edit before the book is sent to the printers.


Widows: A short line that appears at the top of a page which ends the paragraph.

Orphans: A first line of a paragraph that is left at the bottom of a page.