Copy Editing and Developmental Editing: What's the Difference?

Updated: Aug 22

It is important as an author to understand what your manuscript needs before you begin searching for an editor. This is important because 1) it will save you money, and 2) it keeps you informed and prepared in case you run into an editor trying to make a buck off your lack of knowledge.

There are different types of editing, and depending on the state of your manuscript, you will find yourself needing one or two of the various types of editing. The two common types of editing are copyediting and developmental editing, also known as content editing. The two are often used interchangeably even though they each seek to achieve very different goals. It is important as an author to understand what your manuscript needs before you begin searching for an editor. This is important because 1) it will save you money, and 2) it keeps you informed and prepared in case you run into an editor trying to make a buck off your lack of knowledge.


What is Copy Editing? Copy Editing (which is sometimes written as one word – copyediting) involves an editor checking for grammatical errors, spelling mistakes, punctuation, and general clarity of thoughts, such as sentence structure, wordiness, paragraph flow, etc. In short, copy editing focuses on the copy/text.


What is Developmental Editing? Developmental editing, on the other hand, focuses on the content. In which case, an editor is not just looking for spelling mistakes and misused words, but whether the overall content makes any sense. In other words, a developmental editor looks at the whole picture: plot holes, inconsistencies, contradictions, and dialogue discrepancies.


Copyediting is usually the final type of editing a manuscript receives before it goes through the proofreading phase. Before a manuscript is copyedited, it must first be content edited. This might not be necessary if an author has painstakingly taken the manuscript through several rounds of self-editing, or if the author has been able to develop a strong storyline on their own. At The Brielle Agency, we let you know what attention your manuscript needs during the review process. Based on the samples we receive, we are able to access a manuscript’s strengths and weaknesses and give helpful feedback. Some manuscripts end up needing a copy edit while others might need both, but in either case, things go smoothly if the author already knows where they fall short.

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