What is editing?
Fundamentally, editing involves making or suggesting changes to a written text to ensure that it does the best possible job in achieving its purpose – communicating the author’s message to readers. This goes beyond merely checking spelling and grammar: an editor will consider the author’s intentions, the type of publication and the intended audience to assess whether the document is structured properly, contains all the necessary elements, is expressed in the right tone and abides by the expected guidelines and writing conventions. It is not a uniform or mechanical process of checking for errors. Depending on the variables involved (author, narrative, reader) an editor might, for example, identify where more (or less) information is required, suggest a different structure or hierarchy for content, make changes to writing style to achieve a more (or less) formal register, cut (or add) material to remove ambiguity or improve clarity, and address other weaknesses in narrative elements. Of course, editing also includes the obvious tasks – correcting spelling and grammar, improving style, and ensuring accuracy, clarity and consistency (including compliance with any mandated style guides).
There are three generally recognised levels of editing, substantive editing, copyediting and proofreading (see below), pertaining to different stages of the writing and publishing process. In practice, these commonly overlap and are often conducted in parallel. At workwisewords we offer all three levels of editing as well as a range of other services – manuscript assessment, content writing/rewriting, thesis editing, Plain English rewrites and indexing – to support you from beginning to end of your publishing process.
What documents do you edit?
With experience across the public and private sectors as well as academia, and having worked directly with Australian and international publishing houses, workwisewords offers editing services across a wide range of document types and subject areas.
academic theses + essays | scholarly journal articles | research reports | e-books + hardcopy | annual reports | applications + resumes | business + technical reports | fiction + non-fiction books | manuals + guidebooks | marketing + promotional material | newsletters + magazines | policy, guidelines and standards | research proposals | social media | tenders + grant applications | training + educational material | and more
biography + autobiography | business, economics + industry computing + ict | education | environmental studies | humanities + social sciences | indigenous studies | fine arts + art history | law + criminology | lifestyle | medicine + health sciences | multicultural studies | philosophy + religion | politics + public policy | popular + literary fiction | science, technology + engineering | science fiction + fantasy | women’s studies | and more
A manuscript assessment is a review of your draft to evaluate its suitability for purpose and to identify changes necessary to improve readability. A manuscript assessment considers your text at the highest narrative level: overall structure and length, internal structure, development and pace, point of view and voice, characterisation, dialogue, use of non-textual elements and overall suitability for the intended readership. It covers the same issues as a substantive edit (see below) but instead of the editor making changes in your manuscript you will receive a detail written analysis of those issues and suggestions to guide rewriting and improving the narrative.
Note: due to the high level of conceptual input involved in manuscript assessment, it is not compatible with thesis editing or other forms of editing for graded academic works.
Substantive editing (also called structural, content or developmental editing) aims to ensure that the structure, content, language and style of the document are optimal for its intended purpose and readership. This includes assessing the overall structure and organization of the content, identifying gaps, inconsistencies and redundancy in the narrative, and improving the style of the text at the chapter, section and paragraph levels. A substantive editor may suggest that chapters be rearranged, that a different voice or POV be employed, that sections be added or deleted, that non-textual elements (graphs, tables etc.) be used, that an index or glossary be included, and, for creative writing, that weaknesses in plot/subplot, characterisation, pacing and dialogue be addressed. Often a substantive edit will overlap to some extent with manuscript assessment, involving advice as much as changes, and it is often a preliminary to additional writing/rewriting of the draft.
Note: due to the high level of conceptual input involved in substantive editing, it is not compatible with thesis editing or other forms of editing for graded academic works.
Copyediting (sometimes called line editing) is primarily concerned with grammar, spelling, punctuation and style. Copy editors ensure proper usage, fix language and phrasing, identify inconsistencies in style or content, ensure meaning is clear and consistent on a sentence-by-sentence and paragraph-by-paragraph basis, and improve style on a more localised basis than the substantive edit (e.g., ensuring the same person is used throughout, adding missing transitions between sentences and paragraphs etc.). Copyediting also incorporates what is sometimes called ‘mechanical editing’ – ensuring that a document complies with any mandated style guides (including citation style guides).
Thesis editing combines elements of copyediting and proofreading and addresses the same issues: grammar, spelling, punctuation and style; clarity, ambiguity and redundancy; references and footnotes; layout and formatting; and compliance with mandated style guides (including citation styles). However, while copyediting may sometimes include correction of factual or conceptual errors, logical lapses and incorrect use of data, the scope of thesis editing is more circumscribed to protect the academic integrity of the thesis examination process. The limits of thesis editing are set out in the Guidelines for Editing Research Theses and will, in most cases, also be spelled out in the thesis policy of your university. See the Academic Editing page for more information on thesis editing.
Academic editing is editing for all non-graded research and scholarly works: books, journal articles, reviews, reports, conference papers, research propels etc. It can incorporate elements of all three levels of editing described above; because it does not involve graded work, the Guidelines for Editing Research Theses do not apply and the editor may correct errors of fact or reasoning and provide conceptual input. In addition to focus on style and empirical/logical coherence, academic editing often involves applying the house style and layout requirements for academic publishers and journal submissions.
Australian Standards for Editing Practice
The Institute for Professional Editing – the national industry body for editing in Australia – has issued Australian Standards for Editing Practice. The standards provides guidance for clients on the various aspects of editing and what to expect from editors, and guidance for editors on the range of skills and knowledge they should exhibit. The current (second) edition of the Standards is divided into five parts: A. Professional practice; B. Management and liaison; C. Substance and structure; D. Language and illustrations; and E. Completeness and consistency.
The Australian Standards for Editing Practice can be viewed on the Institute for Professional Editing’s website.
Code of Ethics
workwisewords is affiliated with the Institute of Professional Editors and is bound by IPEd’s Code of Ethics. The Code of Ethics covers integrity, professionalism and competence, respect for confidentiality and respect for conflicts of interest. It is a requirement of members of IPEd that they comply with this Code of Ethics, as specified in section 7 of IPEd’s Constitution. Members found to be in breach of the Code of Ethics may be subject to disciplinary measures as set out in section 8 of IPEd’s Constitution, including suspension of membership or expulsion.