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What is Line Editing?


a hand makes a mark on a typewritten page with a red pen

In a previous post, I wrote about the dev (developmental) editing process, during which the dev editor works with the author to shape the ideas and structure for a book or story. Now I’m going to tell you a little about line editing.


Line editing?


Sometimes called substantive editing, line editing is the gratifying but time and labor intensive process by which I go through your finished manuscript line-by-line and assure that every paragraph and sentence is legible, clear, and well-written.


As a writer, you’ve likely noticed that changing one sentence creates a chain reaction which causes you to change another and then yet another. The purpose of line editing is to make that one sentence more clear or elegant while maintaining its meaning, maintaining your style, and taking care that the rest of the sentence, and the rest of the paragraph, and the rest of the chapter, still makes sense. In this way, line editing is like adjusting the focus on a camera to create the clearest, most accurate, image.

For instance, when doing a line edit, I might spot two sentence fragments and find a way to turn them into a single complex sentence. Or I might notice that you used the word “but” six times in a single paragraph and, after determining whether the usage was a stylistic choice or carelessness, suggest a change or leave it (all edits are suggestions, after all*).


I might also figure out how to say that thing you just couldn't figure out how to say no matter how many times you tried. In such cases (which are pretty common) I'm turning a tangle of confused syntax into a single powerful statement that gets straight to the point, just the way you want it to.


Which brings me to the second purpose which line editing can serve. Not only can it improve the quality of your manuscript but it can improve the quality of your work by revealing the strengths, weaknesses, and style of your writing.


So now you've learned a little about developmental editing, a little about line editing, and next time you'll hear some more from me about copy editing.


Are you ready for a line edit? Not sure? Schedule a free 20-minute consultation and find out.


*When you receive your edited manuscript as a Google Doc or Word document, edits will be recorded as suggestions which you can accept or reject.


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