The goal of developmental editing is to improve your book’s foundation, content, and structure.

This type of editing is very different from proofreading or copyediting. When you hear editing, you probably think about grammar, punctuation, and spelling, or shaping text to fit style guides like the Chicago Manual of Style and The AP Stylebook. When comparing different types of editing, it’s probably good to think about copyediting and proofreading as the decoration and polish stage.

Developmental editing tackles topics like pacing, plot, characterization, and setting. It’s part art and part science and can drastically change a book. A developmental editor draws on years of experience in both reading and writing to help an author craft the best manuscript possible. Most published books are products of developmental editing. When a developmental editor examines a manuscript, they take a thorough and in-depth look at both macro and micro story elements.

From sentence phrasing to plot holes, a developmental editor provides direct and honest feedback to improve your writing and take your manuscript to a new level. Professional developmental editing keeps in mind your target audience and provides guidance on cutting, reshaping, revising, and developing your manuscript to get it ready for copyediting and proofreading. 


The editor-author relationship is a creative partnership that relies on honesty and mutual understanding. It is necessary to find an editor that is not only skilled and experienced, but who also matches your communication style. Since a developmental editor is going to give you critical feedback on your manuscript, you want it to be someone that you trust and understands you. The author-editor relationship is different for everyone, no partnership is alike. No writer works in a vacuum. Books take collaboration, no matter your writing experience. 


Developmental Editing vs. Editorial Assessment

Developmental editing means that the editor will make in-line comments within your document, as well as pointing out big picture problems. The main difference between developmental editing and an editorial assessment is the end result: in-line comments or an editorial assessment.

An editorial assessment also evaluates big-picture topics such as characterization, plot, structure, and style. The editor provides you with an editorial letter, almost like an editorial book report. Developmental editing is more labor intensive than an editorial assessment, therefore it is more expensive.

Although most books require all types of editing, there are significant differences between developmental and copy editing. Copy editors are masters of language. They examine a manuscript in fine detail.

A copy editor reviews grammar, punctuation, and word choice. Developmental editing is detail-oriented, but it usually views the story as a whole and provides guidance on how to fix the larger picture problems.

After a developmental edit, a copy editor reviews a manuscript with a fine-toothed comb, providing line-by-line corrections.