Before you hire an editor or send a manuscript out into the world, it’s important to have an understanding of the editorial process and the definitions of terms.
Structural editing is assessing and shaping material to improve its organization and content. This is looking at the big picture, looking at consistency in the storyline and in the flow of ideas.
Stylistic editing is editing to clarify meaning, improve flow, and smooth language. This could be when the editor points out pacing problems, or certain lines of dialogue that don’t sound realistic.
Copy editing is editing to ensure correctness, consistency, accuracy, and completeness. This is the fun stuff: grammar, punctuation, spelling, word choice, sentence structure and other mechanics of style.
Proofreading is examining material after the layout to correct errors in textual and visual elements. This is the polishing and an eye for accuracy is a must.
I feel the key to writing is rewriting; and an editor’s job is to partner with a writer to make it the best it can be.
As an editor, when I’m working with a new client, I always find out if they want to learn how to write better. If that’s the case, then I’ll take the time to explain my rationale for the edits. If it’s going to be the only book they’ll produce; thus, learning about the process of writing isn’t as important (which is perfectly fine) then I won’t focus so much on teaching clients how to improve their writing skills. Once I have established their path, then I’m able to be clear up front about how we proceed.
Editor: A person whose business it is to separate the wheat from the chaff, and see that the chaff is printed. – Hubbard Elbert