Editing explained

Editors may use different terms to explain what it is that they do. For clarity, here are the key terms that we use on our website and an explanation of what each means.

Copy-editing and proofreading

Copy-editing is appropriate when a document is, for the most part, structurally sound with most of its content in the correct place. The editor’s role here is to find and correct errors of grammar, spelling, punctuation and word usage. In addition, he or she will be concerned to ensure consistency and clarity of meaning. To achieve these the editor may need to alter some sentences and paragraphs.

Beyond lightly restructuring the document, an editor might wish to discuss with the writer that the work needs more substantive changes.

Proofreading involves reading a document to detect and correct typographical errors (typos). We routinely proofread each document that we edit.

Pre-print proofing

This refers to the final 'proof' of a document before a print run. Pre-print is not part of our standard service but can be requested by a client.

Substantive editing

Substantive editing is sometimes referred to as structural editing. Both terms refer to an intensive form of revision in which a document is evaluated as a whole and problems of structure, organization, coherence and logical consistency are addressed. For example, sentences may be removed or added; paragraphs may be rewritten, condensed, or expanded; and blocks of text may be moved from one section to another.

Where substantive editing results in the near rewriting of a document the editor will work in consultation with the author.

Substantive editing takes more time and skill than other forms of editing. It is thus more expensive, and longer completion times may be anticipated depending upon the length and complexity of the document.


Ghost-writing refers to writing material for which, by agreement, another person will be acknowledged as author. Usually the writer’s work is not acknowledged to them.

We can assist clients where ghost-writing is a legitimate and ethical request: for example, researching and writing a trade journal article or a company history.

Developmental Editing

This involves an editor working with the client and writer (or writers) to produce a document from an initial concept, outline or draft. Developmental editing may cross over into coaching and mentoring. The editor will often make suggestions about content, organisation and presentation that are based on his or her analysis of similar documents and other appropriate references.


Some documents may need to be presented in a particular format. Examples of this include an NZQA application, an ISO 9001 manual, a health and safety policy, a NZ Civil Aviation Authority compliance document, and an academic bibliography: each of which we have experience with.

We are able to incorporate a check on formatting in the editing process. When ordering our service, please bring to our attention any specific formatting needed so that we can identify the standard required and allocate the task to the editor best qualified in that area.

Related pages:

Coaching and mentoring.

Writing project management.

Managing Editor