When you ask someone to edit a document for you, you need to specify exactly what you want done. Editing takes on several forms that involve varying degrees of time, effort and attention to detail. So, here’s a rundown of the main types of editing so you know exactly what to tell your editor:


This is the most basic form, for when you need a second set of eyes to make sure you didn’t miss anything. Attention to minor errors is prevalent in proofreading. Again, grammar and style is checked, along with things like consistent verb tense, use of numbers, capitalization, punctuation (proper commas, dashes, etc.) and word usage as it pertains to context.


This delves a little deeper into the mechanics of grammar and spelling, and oversees errors pertaining to word usage, style and grammatical consistency. It also looks at sentence structure, organization, flow, formatting, continuity and clarity.

Substantive or Developmental

This type of editing deals with revising the document as a whole. Things like structure, how well it tells a story and whether everything makes sense are taken into account. In this case, we ask whether everything is in the right place and order, as well as whether there is not enough or too much information. Full sentences and paragraphs can be added, removed, shortened or elaborated on.

Formatting & Fact Checking

Editing in this way involves reviewing the document to ensure everything properly adheres to a select style guide; that all names, dates and numbers add up; that everything is sourced the proper way; and that grammar and punctuation are in their correct places. Also, technical details like proper spacing, bolding and italicizing of paragraphs and titles are mulled over.

Now you know that there’s much more to editing than just looking something over. Professional editors are usually well versed in all the above types. Just make sure to clarify what type you need.