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Sentence Level Editing

Updated: Nov 16, 2023

Update 11/16/23: This post has been moved from my previous site and some links may not work properly. Thank you for your understanding.

Line editing and copyediting both occur at the sentence level, and though they can often be performed together, there are some distinct differences.

Note: This post contains affiliate links. If you use these links to buy something, I may earn a commission at no additional cost to you. I only recommend products I would use myself and all opinions expressed are my own.

What is Line Editing?

Line editing deals mainly with sentence structure and is somewhat developmental in nature. However, instead of content and organization, this level of editing addresses clarity, imagery, word choice, tone, and readability.

Each author has a unique voice (writing style), so a line editor must respect and cultivate that voice while keeping the writing clear and concise. It is a delicate balance, but this type of editing can improve the overall flow and beauty of the writing within a work. The writer can also see long-term benefits, because they will learn the most effective way to use their voice.

What is Copyediting?

Copyediting is primarily mechanical, meaning this is where those less ambiguous issues are solved. Consistency, punctuation, usage, grammar, and spelling will be corrected to adhere to a style guide. Unless otherwise requested, I consult The Chicago Manual of Style, Seventeenth Edition and The Christian Writer’s Manual of Style, Fourth Edition.

In addition, copyediting is the place where citations (and Bible verses) are checked for accuracy and adherence to permissions and copyright. I will also build a copyright page if asked.

If the condition of the manuscript allows—usually after a full developmental edit—I sometimes offer a copy/line edit which covers both structural and mechanical issues at the sentence level.

But doesn't editing software do all that?

Yes! Also, a resounding NO! Editing software can be a good writing companion and tool. But a human editor, it is not. Each suggestion must be carefully scrutinized, and it may not be clear whether a suggestion is best to help carry your unique voice. The way you’d know for sure is by consulting, yes, a human editor.

That being said, if you do want an increasingly intuitive writing companion and tool that can help you along the way, there is one that I trust:

ProWritingAid is much more budget friendly than other software and has many features that may be useful for a variety of writers. It can be added right into your browser and writing program. I use it in both writing and editing to help identify patterns and problem areas. Try it for free! 

I will caution you again that this is an excellent tool, very much like an MRI scan for a doctor or a mechanic’s diagnostic scanner. Those are great tools, but they are not designed to take the place of a knowledgeable human being made in the image of the infinite God. I have (re)edited manuscripts for authors who relied too heavily on editing software, and it made more work for everyone in the end! While this is less of a problem with ProWritingAid than with other software in my experience, please know that no technology is ever a replacement for a human’s perspective.


Editor’s Tip:

Each editor has preferred terms for editing levels and parameters for what each level of editing entails. These are my definitions, based on numerous sources and my experience and expertise.

Photo Credits:

stock.adobe @ dohee

stock.adobe @ vvoe

stock.adobe @ Andrey Popov

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