Which Editor Do You Need?

There are unique editors for every stage of the writing process.

When you hear the word editor, you may be among many who think the term applies to a red pen holder who gets a thrill from slashing your manuscript to shreds.

Those types do exist (and we’ll talk about them later), but there are also other editors that can help as you develop your writing into a publish-ready work of art.

It’s important to know which editor you need so that you’re not wasting valuable time or money repeating steps in the writing process or doing those that are unnecessary to your authorship journey.

So, let’s dive in. 

The Four Types of Editors

There are four types of editors: developmental, line, copy, and proofreading. Each editing style brings attention to different aspects of your writing and can be beneficial to advancing your skills as an author.

Developmental Editor

Also called substantial editing, developmental editing deals with the story itself. An author may want to have a developmental edit performed on their manuscript after the first draft; this is typically the first edit completed. 

What to check during a developmental edit:

  • World building – The editor will determine if the setting, laws, creatures, and rules of the world are fully fleshed out. If, for example, the world built is governed by magical rules, the editor will make sure that the rules remain consistent, or that the rules have been broken for a valid reason (which should support the plot).
  • Character development – How well the characters are crafted and if there is any character growth throughout the course of the story.
  • Story/Plot – Does the story make sense? Will readers understand your message? Are there opportunities for the characters to be molded by the events of the story?
Line Editor

Line editing deals with a line-by-line analysis of the manuscript. Line editors check for correct word usage and choice to help you communicate to your readers in the easiest way possible.


Copyediting, also written as copy editing (the red-pen slashers), deals with the mechanics of writing — punctuation, grammar, spelling, and the like. Some copyeditors (like me) also check word choice and usage during the copyedit to ensure you are using the right word in the right way. Some editors skip line editing completely because some of the work done during this phase can also be done during a copyedit.


Last, but not least, is proofreading. A proofread should only be completed when you are ready to get your work in the hands of your readers. Essentially, a proofread is another copyedit for mechanics. A proofreader may point out where they think you can afford to make additional changes, but generally, this is not in their wheelhouse.

I’ve listed each of the types of editing in the order I believe you should have them done on your manuscript. You certainly don’t want to go for a line edit when you need to make sure your story makes sense. And a good editor should tell you if you’re not ready for the level of editing you’ve requested.

A Final Thought

Here are some dos and don’ts you should consider when shopping for an editor:

  • Shop around for an editor
  • Make sure the editor you’ve selected does a sample edit so you can see their work
  • Ensure that your editor works with your genre and does the type of editing you need
  • Use the same editor for each editing type
  • Work on your manuscript as your editor is editing
  • Send your writing off for any editing work without performing a self-edit on your own work

Featured photo by Jason Goodman on Unsplash; in-text photo by Kelly Sikkema on Unsplash