Editing refers to revising written text to improve clarity, readability, and overall flow, as well as making sure the grammar, spelling, punctuation, and syntax are all correct. A professional editor can also provide suggestions on the content or other components of a document.
Editors often offer different levels of editing. Copy editing focuses on the language used, and is mainly focused on spelling, grammar, punctuation, and syntax. The editor will also look at word usage, repetition, inconsistencies, and jargon. A professional editor will most likely ask you when you submit your work to them if your work needs to follow a particular style. You should let the editor know if the document needs to follow US or UK English, for example, or any other particular things you need, such as use of a formal, academic, or business tone.
It is important to let your editor know what you need from him or her at the beginning of the editing process. This includes the level of editing you require, any particular style your document needs to follow, and when you need to receive the edited document.
Substantive editing (also called content editing) is the most intensive form of editing. Here the structure, organization, style, and presentation of your document will be looked at. Sections may be moved in your document, text cut from one part and added to another part, and parts of the document may be rewritten to provide better clarity.
Most editors will edit any references or bibliography included in your work, but you should confirm with your editor to ensure this will also be done. References and bibliographies can be hard to put together correctly, so it does help to have a second pair of eyes go over this section. You should also provide the editor with information on how the references should be formatted.
Most editors like to communicate with their clients during the editing process. This could be by emailing queries to you or adding comments to the document. This lets you know the editor cares about the work they are doing, and also allows you to have input into the process, letting the editor know what you want. Document editors should always be available for questions during and after the editing process.
The final stage of editing is proofreading, where someone ensures all the mistakes have been corrected. Proofreading essentially assures that the editor has done a good job. Most publishing houses have all copy proofread after being edited by their staff because, as stated above, it helps to have a second pair of eyes go over your document. A document must go through several stages of editing as well as proofreading in order to be as error-free as possible.
Professional editors generally use track changes when editing a document. This lets you see what has been changed; you can then accept or decline the changes made. It is important for you, as the writer and owner of the document, to understand how to use Track Changes, which is a feature available in most word processing programs like Microsoft Word and Google Docs. Even the most established authors have their work edited and proofread. I'm going to say it again. It always helps to have a second pair of eyes review a document!