Editing Terminology

One of the most frustrating things about writing and editing is figuring out what to call what process and when. While there will never be total consensus among the publishing industry, there is a general agreement on some basic definitions.

Below is a short list of the most common words authors come across when going through the editorial process, whether through self-editing or hiring a professional editor.

Cold Readthrough

A front-to-back reading of a manuscript to gather first impressions and high-level information from a casual reader’s perspective.

Editing Pass

One read through a manuscript, either as close reader or for editorial analysis.

Editing Round

One or more passes through a manuscript. The final deliverable returned to the author will either include 1) the marked-up manuscript (and Style Sheet or Editorial Letter, as appropriate), or 2) the Manuscript Evaluation letter.

Developmental Edit

This edit primarily addresses structure, plot, characters, and stakes/conflicts. It can also make note of point-of-view issues, inconsistencies, and settings/worldbuilding.

Line Edit

Focusing on the language as a delivery method, this edit looks at word choice and usage, sentence structure and paragraph length, and overall flow of sentences, paragraphs, and chapters, and how they each play off or misalign with each other.


Turning to the mechanics of language, the copyedit primarily addresses things like spelling, punctuation, grammar, and sentence structure. Queries of new terms, possibly wrong facts, or even copyright violations can be expected.


The final look-see at a formatted book before it goes to print. Only the most egregious errors are addressed (e.g., obvious misspellings, incorrect end-of-line breaks, line spacing misalignment, header and footer information, consistency between the table of contents and internal chapter titles and page numbers).

Scroll to Top