Proofreading, Editing, and Developmental Editing: Differences and Examples


Manuscript Mentoring

June 29, 2020 · 4 Min Read


Differences of Proofreading, Editing, and Developmental Editing


There are some fundamental differences between proofreading, editing, and developmental editing. Firstly, it is important to note that their meanings are not always fixed. Someone may refer to proofreading when they actually mean editing, and someone else may refer to editing when they actually mean developmental editing. The following definitions are correct:


  • Proofreading: Fixes spelling and grammar. A good example of this is Microsoft Word's Spelling & Grammar tool. As a side note, no word processor's proofing should be considered conclusive.

  • Editing: Line editing and developmental editing are usually lumped under this term. More often than not, when someone says editing, they actually mean line editing. As the name implies, line editors adjust a document line-by-line to highlight inconsistencies and to make it a smoother read. Transitions, wordiness, paragraphing, word choice, repetitions, and other elements are considered when a line editor edits. Naturally, line editors also fix spelling and grammar.

  • Developmental Editing: This type of editing is also known as substantive editing and comprehensive editing. In addition to covering the responsibilities of a line editor, a developmental editor looks at the novel and the writer’s writing as a whole. Therefore, characters, plot, voice, mood, theme and other elements are also analyzed. The nature of this type of editing necessitates a much greater degree of feedback from the developmental editor.


Examples of Proofreading, Editing, and Developmental Editing


The following three examples illustrate the varying degrees of scrutiny a passage goes through depending on the proofreader/editor.

manuscript-mentoring-developmental- edit

As the above examples show, the proofreader only corrects grammar and spelling mistakes. Look at the differences between the editor and the developmental editor. The editor analyzes the piece at paragraph level, making sure that transitions are smooth and that the text flows. However, in addition to these changes, the developmental editor comments on the characters, point of view, and plot. He also addresses the style in greater depth by explaining to the writer why the adjective beautiful has been removed. The developmental editor’s goal is to improve both the cohesion of the novel and the writer’s general level of writing.


Manuscript Mentoring


At we offer developmental editing services for fiction and nonfiction writers. To this end, we analyze all facets of our clients’ work. Naturally, this includes grammar, spelling, formatting, transitions, word choice, plot, and characters. It also necessitates extensive feedback, both at paragraph level and from a holistic point of view. Have a look at our Services page if you are looking for an affordable developmental editor. We also offer proofreading packages for projects over 30,000 words in length. For an updated price list on our proofreading services, please contact us via email, contact form, or instant messenger.