Do You Really Know What You Want?

thinking businessman

A long time ago I posted an article on how to get what you want, but what if you really don’t know what treatment you want or need for your documents to start with?

It’s tricky, there are so many bits of jargon floating out there that it can get really confusing.

First of all if you have documentation of any kind that is going to be read by anybody other than family or friends, you will benefit from having the words edited or proofread. See my little infographic from a few weeks back.

do I need an editor infograph

As a quick guideline, if you are not sure what you need, editorial help can fall under three categories which move in three stages – developmental, copy-edit and proofreading.

If you are an author what treatment will you need?

A developmental editor will look at the big picture. If you are writing fiction they will look at characters, plot and tell you if any re-writing is needed. They’re looking at the manuscript as a whole, the nitty gritty comes next. Some developmental editors, for a fee, will give you an appraisal of your manuscript as it stands and let you know what needs to be done before any work is started. This can allow you to go back and look again at your work and sort out any major issues that have been highlighted before any in-depth editorial work begins.

A copy-editor looks at the grammar, punctuation, spelling etc. This is the nitty gritty bit. Just like developmental editing it takes time, but instead of looking at the bigger picture, we’re looking close up. Some people decide not to hire a developmental editor and jump straight into copy-editing, but this can be a false economy.

A proofreader is what you need right at the end. Everything should be more or less perfect by now, but a proofreader will check to make sure that no mistakes have been left in the manuscript and that the final product will look good. Proofreaders check consistency, style, tables and illustrations, captions, page numbers, spelling, headings and format, and they are usually the last people to check the manuscript.

If you are a non-fiction author you will still need the three types of editing, however rather than checking character and plot the developmental editor will be looking at the information you have included in your manuscript… are there any factual errors, does the layout make sense and is your writing suitable for the intended audience.

document stack

If you are a business with documentation what treatment will you need?

It’s all pretty similar to what an author will need!

A developmental editor will check the big picture for you, making sure your documentation is suitable for the intended audience.  They will advise on any rewriting needed, any issues with the overall design and tone of the piece.

The copy-editor will check the grammar, punctuation, spelling etc and the proofreader will make those final checks.

There is one extra step that businesses can take to make sure their documents are professional, and that is to have a style guide created for them. A style guide is especially valuable if the company produces regular publications as it makes sure that a certain style is followed, for example standardising spellings and numbers within the document, treatment of names etc.

It’s all pretty straightforward really

  • If your manuscript is ready to be sent to the printers or made available as an epub, then you need a proofreader.
  • If you need help sorting out the grammar, spelling and punctuation, then you need a copy-editor.
  • If your manuscript is in the early stages and you need help with the big picture, then you need a developmental editor.


If you still don’t actually know what you need from an editor the easiest thing to do is ask an editor!

Having your manuscript edited will show you at your best, but we also know that it can be difficult to actually see what needs to be done. Don’t worry, we are professionals who can quickly appraise a piece of writing and lead you in the right direction.

Need an editor? Why not contact me?

2 Comments on “Do You Really Know What You Want?

  1. Very nice piece. Succinct, helpful and easy to understand. Congrats. Hope you get lots of clients.

Leave a Reply to sjdonaldson Cancel reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: