Vanessa Finaughty Editor & Author Spotlight

Vanessa Finaughty Editor & Author

Welcome to the newest member of the Stormdance Team.

Types of editing – which do you need?

By Vanessa Finaughty Editor & Author

It’s often difficult for writers to know which type of edit they need, particularly when there are many types and each editor seems to have a different definition for each. Editing is a lot of work and is, therefore, likely to be at least a little pricey, so it’s important to be clear from the start what you want out of the edit.

Most editors I know will charge you according to how much work your manuscript needs, rather than having just one flat rate that he or she charges all authors. For example, I calculate my fees based on whether the manuscript needs a light, medium or heavy edit, or just a proofread, and also on what type of edit you want.

The editor should confirm with you what type of edit you need – there are many types and each takes a different amount of time and energy, so editors should charge accordingly. For example, you should not be charged the same fee for a straightforward line edit as the next person is charged for a developmental or substantive edit. Although the different types of editing and their definitions are generally agreed upon within the editing community, there are slightly different definitions of each type and what it does and does not include, depending on whom you ask. Therefore, you need to tell your chosen editor (before you officially hire him/her or pay anything) what type of edit you want and ask what he/she will look at during the edit, and then he/she can quote accordingly.

So how do you know which type of edit you need? I recommend a line edit, regardless of which other type of edit you do or don’t want – most writers (me included) need another set of eyes on the manuscript to ensure that no typos or errors have crept in, and to double-check that everything makes sense. The human brain tends to read things right as long as the first and last letters of the word are correct, and, if you know what you are trying to say, your brain ‘fills in the gaps’ where things are not explained that well. Therefore, having eyes on the book that belong to someone who does not know what you are trying to say is vital. Further than the line edit, read the list of editing types below and what each entails to get a better idea of what you need and want out of your edit.

Types of editing


This should be done last, after the manuscript has been edited. It’s better if someone other than your editor does the proofreading, because a fresh set of eyes is more likely to spot anything that was missed by the editing process. A proofreader will correct all remaining errors, from spelling, punctuation, capitalisation, tense and other language errors to inconsistencies and random breaks in sentences or paragraphs, or dialogue formatting and spacing issues. A proofreader will not change your sentence structure or make any major suggestions for improvement.

Line edit/copy edit

A copy edit will correct errors in grammar, spelling, punctuation, capitalisation, typos, phrasing, repetition, sentence structure and any other errors, and some copy editors will change passive voice to active voice for smoother reading. A copy edit does not include a critique, although some editors might include brief notes to assist you in future writing or explain why something was changed (I usually include these notes).

Developmental edit

Some see this the same as a substantive edit; I view them as two different types of edits.

The manuscript is looked at as a whole. The editor will check the following:

  • That everything makes sense and is logical (and if not, how the logic issues can be fixed).
  • That the setting is described well enough (in fiction).
  • That the story is told well enough (and if not, how it can be improved).
  • That the story is structured well (e.g. tenses, viewpoints and time line, etc.).
  • That the characters are real enough (and if not, how they could be made more real).
  • That the character dialogue is realistic and sounds right when read out loud.
  • That the plot makes sense and is entertaining, and that there are no plot holes (and, if necessary, how it could be improved).
  • That there are no inconsistencies.
  • That your book flows well.
  • Anything else that he/she feels can be improved.

Some editors will include a line edit/copy edit, but others do not, so ask your editor if he/she includes it (I usually include it). The editor will not:

  • Do any major rewriting or restructuring – any changes required will be pointed out to you so that you can address them.
  • Change your wording (unless it is actually wrong).

Substantive edit

Substantive editing involves tightening the prose, ensuring that everything, from sentences to paragraphs, scenes to points of view and chapters, reads the best it can. This can include fact checking (ask if your editor includes it).

Tip: Ask your editor to use MS Word’s track changes feature to mark edits. Not all editors will automatically do this, but it is an easy way for authors to see exactly what was changed during the editing process.

If you are looking for an editor, I’m happy to provide you with a free quotation. I am able to edit in South African, American and British English (I am willing to edit for other countries too, but please keep in mind that spelling and grammar rules might differ or be a mix of USA/UK for some countries, which means there is a risk that I will miss something specific to your country). I provide a ‘tracks’ version that shows all of the changes I made and a ‘clean’ version in which my changes are accepted and is ready for you to use. I ask South African authors to do a direct EFT to my bank for payments, and international authors can choose to do the same or pay via PayPal. I ask for a 50% deposit, with the balance of the fee payable upon completion of your edit. If you would like a free editing quote, please send me at least three sample pages from your manuscript, along with your manuscript’s total word count, your deadline and the type of edit you would like: shadowfire 13 @ (please remove spaces in the email address).

Vanessa Fignaughty Editor & Author

Vanessa Finaughty Editor & Author

Vanessa Finaughty Editor & Author

About Vanessa Finaughty

Vanessa grew up in Cape Town, South Africa and still lives there with her husband of twenty years, her two human children and her three furry, four-legged children.

Her passion for the written word started her career as an author, editor and copywriter, and she ran a fiction writers’ critique group for close on seven years. In recent years, Vanessa’s focus is on editing (non-fiction and fiction; any genre) and writing fiction (mostly fantasy).

Her interests include reading, ancient history, conspiracy theories, photography, graphic design, the supernatural, life’s mysteries, the human mind and martial arts, of which she has five years’ experience in Ki Aikido.

Vanessa has written or edited for magazines, national newspapers in South Africa, Oxford University Press Southern Africa and the International Trade Centre in Geneva, Switzerland, among others. She is a published author of fiction and non-fiction, with a main focus on fantasy in recent years. Vanessa is also an official short story judge for On the Premises, an online fiction magazine that hosts short story contests throughout the year, and proud editor of the Grumpy Old Gods short story anthology.

Vanessa works with authors and publishing companies anywhere in the world, and edits in South African, UK or American English. For a free editing quotation, please feel free to email her at: shadowfire 13 @ (please remove all spaces in the email address; they are added to thwart pesky bots). Please include your total word count and a sample of the book you want edited.