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Advice on editorial terms

Editor Cressida Downing looks at the terms she's used throughout her career and sheds some light on the types of things you should expect when paying for an editorial service.

It’s getting more and more confusing to get to the bottom of what services are being offered by editorial advice companies, so I have looked at a representative sample of 15 different companies to try and simplify things for the author. We will add to this as we find more terms out there, so please do let us know if you spot anything else that could do with clarification.

The terms I use The terms they use What it means for you Points to watch out for


Basic editing
Core editing
Line editing

The editor will be correcting your spelling, punctuation, grammatical errors and typos.

Qualifications of editor
American or English editor?

Line editing or

Content editing
Substantive copy-editing

Sentence flow, looking out for repetitions, sense of what is being said, tone.

How much rewriting do you want to happen to your text? Useful to let the editor know what kind of depth of change you are expecting.

Critique or Editorial Evaluation

Developmental edit
Content edit
Advanced developmental Editing

Is my book any good? Which areas are working? Looking at plot, characters, tone and chances of publication.

Some will include some elements of proof-reading – but the chances are they will point out problems generally rather than give the text a full scouring.

Chances of publication are not always explored.

Structural Edit

Editorial evaluation

Deep plot work – working out pacing, and character motivations, and genre compatibility

Elements of this will come into a critical evaluation, but this will apply most closely when an editor reads your work for the second time, to see how the book hangs together once the smaller issues have been resolved.

Sample assessment

Editorial evaluation

Often free – this can be a sample of the editor's work (say two or three pages of your work), or they will assess a sample of your work to see what service suits your writing best.

Check who is being assessed, you or the editor.




Not necessary for fiction books, this is a straightforward service that provides a useable index to the main topics covered in a non-fiction title.


Premium copy editing
“Editing service” Plus
“Editing service” Gold

A rewrite of your material.

Useful if you want to produce a book in English and it's not your mother tongue.


Story help
Life story help

Your life story (primarily) written up from your notes or interviews. The editor will write as if you are the narrator.

Can be expensive for the quality you get. Experienced ghost writers tend to only take on projects that have been signed up by publishers and are not available to work with unpublished authors.