Friday Tip: Line Editing vs. Developmental Editing
I saw a comment in a Facebook group from an editor trying to convince a writer to skip the developmental edit because a line edit is “basically the same thing.”
🚩🚩🚩 This is bad advice!
Both line editing and developmental editing are valuable BUT have a different purpose and, therefore, take a different approach.
A line editor (also diff. from copy*) focuses on the flow and meaning of the WORDS, including sentence-level syntax and word choices.
A developmental editor is looking at your manuscript as a whole, evaluating the structure, flow, and big picture elements that make up the STORY.
A line editor WILL flag:
✅ Clunky sentences.
✅ Word choices.
✅ Tone, voice, clarity, and flow.
✅ Run-ons, repetition, iffy phrasing.
✅ Organization and gaps at the sentence or paragraph-level.
✅ More to do with the WORDS & WRITING.
A line editor is NOT going to flag:
❌ Plot holes.
❌ Poor character development.
❌ Pacing, timing, or big structural issues.
❌ Gaps in world building/believability.
❌ POV problems.
❌ Flow or believability of dialogue.
These are BIG PICTURE items.
Before you hire any other editor, ESPECIALLY IF YOU ARE SELF-PUBLISHING, the developmental editor is the expert you want to invest in. It doesn’t matter how fresh and clean your language is if the greater story isn’t working.
* Side Note Line and copy editing are often lumped together, but they are also different. Line editing is more about style, copy editing is more about mechanics. They are often confused because they are so similar.