Editing – Part III – Line Editing


In Part I we covered the basics of editing. Why you need an editor and an overview of what an editor does and doesn’t do. Then, in Part II we covered Developmental Editing, which is intended mainly to help new writers who are having difficulty getting started with their story.

In Part III, we’ll cover the most common form of editing, Copy or Line Editing.

At this stage, you’ve likely gone over, and over, and over your manuscript. Now you’re either in love with it and convinced it’s perfect or can’t stand to look at it another second!

Whichever it is, will help you and the editor decide which form of line editing you’ll need.

If you’re certain you’ve found and corrected everything you could, are in love with your plot and characters, then a light line edit is likely all you’ll need.

On the other hand, if you’re convinced none of it makes sense and you wrote it in some other language, then you’re probably headed for a heavy line edit.


By now you’ve likely guessed that a copy or line edit is performed on the what the writer believes to be a completed manuscript and is a line by line check of the authors work.

Line editing can be light, medium or heavy, depending on what state the manuscript is in. As noted above, a clean self-edited manuscript would likely need only a light line edit. Whereas a manuscript the writer is uncomfortable with will need a deeper, heavy line edit to help finish developing the story as well as fixing things.

Typically, a medium line edit and its depth, will fall somewhere in between, depending on what the editor finds during his/her initial manuscript evaluation.

Things the editor will make sure are correct and proper for each type of line edit are:

  • Light
    • Spelling
    • Punctuation
    • Grammar
    • Capitalization
    • Number usage
    • Abbreviations
    • Typographical errors
    • Omitted or repeat words
    • Overall story accuracy


  • Medium – A light edit plus:
    • Consistency of American or British English, colloquialisms, accents
    • Sentence construction and run on sentences
    • Elimination of unnecessary words
    • Syntax
    • Proper and consistent tense
    • Overused words and adverbs, clichés, purple prose
    • Logic or plot holes
    • Character/time inconsistencies
    • Style sheet/guide adherence (if applicable)


  • Heavy or Full – A light edit, necessary elements from a medium edit and suggestions for:
    • Cuts
    • Additions
    • Rewrites
    • Revisions to unclear passages
    • Replacement words
    • Rearranged sentences and scenes


Which type of line edit is right for you? That’s up to you, the condition of your manuscript and your editor.

When is your manuscript done being edited? When you and your editor agree that it is. Remember, this is a circular process. The more changes you make as a result of the edits, the more additional checks the editor will need to make.

In Part IV we’ll cover the final common step in the editing process, proofreading, and mention a few special editing processes you may want to consider.


Line editing can range from simple to complex. Have we covered what’s generally contained in each type? Do you have a question about something specific? Let us know and we’ll gladly answer it.

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