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The time estimates are rounded to the nearest hour for the purpose of this ballpark estimate. Note that editing citations and references takes much longer; usually about as long as the whole document itself.

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Types of editing, explained

Each manuscript arrives in a different state of readiness. Some would benefit from reorganization and plain language structuring, some need smoothing of the language and checking for internal consistency, others are in the final stages of production and need that fresh set of eyes. The editor can work with your project manager to determine which type of edit fits your needs.

Structural, substantive or developmental editing

  • reorganization and plain language structuring
  • negotiating or drafting changes with the author(s)
  • revising and/or suggesting visuals, tables, and figures
  • flagging content for further development
  • coaching through revisions
  • full details, and explanation of what makes this faster or slower

magnified eyeCopyediting (and stylistic or line editing)

  • checking grammar, spelling, and punctuation
  • checking and adjusting reading level
  • clarifying meaning
  • eliminating jargon
  • adding specifications for the designer
  • applying styles in Word
  • writing or editing captions and headings
  • negotiating or drafting changes with the author(s)
  • full details, and explanation of what makes this faster or slower


Proofreading is performed on the “test run” of the product.

  • checking grammar, spelling, and punctuation
  • checking placement, quality and consistency of all visuals
  • checking all internal references
  • verifying content against final manuscript (quality assurance)
  • marking up changes to the printer’s proof or test run of final product (often final designer’s files as a PDF)
  • full details, and explanation of what makes this faster or slower

How to save on editing costs

photo art with eye superimposed on a palm, by SGT Pablo Piedra used under CC BY-2.0 license

Editing yourself cannot compare to getting a professional edit, but you can save money and improve your writing by following this checklist to get your manuscript ready for editing. And here are five ways to see what you’ve written with fresh eyes. It’s worth the effort.

All images on this page are licensed under CC BY-2.0. Click images for credits. What does editing cost? How much should I pay for editing? How much does it cost to copyedit a book? What will editing cost for my book? What should I pay for editing? What does proofreading cost? How to estimate editing costs for a book budget.

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