What Is Developmental Editing – Quick & Clear Guide

Developmental editing refers to a kind of editing that strives to improve the overall structure, content, and delivery of a manuscript. It is quite different from proofreading or copyediting which are processes aimed at improving the grammar, punctuation, and spellings of a written piece. Rather, the developmental editing process involves itself with topics like pacing, plotting, characterization, and setting.

Developmental editing is concerned with improving the overall structure of a piece, not than the mechanical aspect of a piece. There are no set rules when it comes to developmental editing; it usually depends on the experiences, instincts, reading habits, and skill of the editor. This is why a writer should never do this himself, it should be done by an editor who would be able to offer fresh perspectives to the work.

Today, almost every published book has gone through at least one developmental editing process. However, the process is not for a writer who is too attached to his manuscript. This is because the editing process usually involves making huge changes. Editors could delete dialogues which they feel aren’t principal to the entire story. Characters can be removed, or merged, subplots can be removed, and even settings can be modified to fit a particular mood. But when this process is completed, a good writer will see that the process was totally needed.

Also, books that have not gone through this process are usually unnecessarily worded, unfocused, and sometimes difficult to read.


The process of developmental editing is divided into two basic forms:

1. EDITORIAL LETTERS: This is the first process when it comes to the process of developmental editing. This process does not involve making specific changes in a manuscript. Instead, it is concerned with suggesting larger changes, that is suggesting new plot sequences, new characters, or even telling a writer to remove a certain subplot. This is a critique of a piece, a bird-eye view critique which suggests necessary changes in a manuscript. Also, an editorial letter is usually around 3-5 pages, but in several cases, writers have been given editorial letters of 10-15 pages.

2. SUBSTANTIVE EDITING: This is the second process of editing, and is also known as line editing. It is usually done after one or two sessions editing, which is also based on the editorial letters. Line editing, or substantive editing is the sort of editing where an editor pays attention to every line or sentence in a manuscript, and offers suggestions, comments or markings in between the margins or lines. In Microsoft Word, this is usually done with the Track Changes function.

Line editing is more concentrated than editorial letters. They have more focus, and they edit line by line. This targets every single error, and offers the needed correction. Also, substantive editing could be used by an editor to introduce new lines, words into the manuscript.

It is important that when you want to choose an editor for your developmental editing process, it is necessary to choose an editor who has a track record of working on manuscripts similar to yours. This means that if your manuscript is on crime, you should hire an editor who has a track record of editing crime or thriller manuscripts.

Developmental Editing

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