line editing

You might have heard of copyediting, proofreading and developmental editing already, but what is line editing? Many don’t fully grasp the differences between these levels, let alone line editing as well.

The purpose and process of all these editing levels is slightly different, and clearly all require trying to improve your document in some way. It’s useful to understand the nuances between them, so you know what kind of editing your document requires. You never know, line editing could well be it.

Let’s take a look.

What is line editing?

The most basic definition of line editing is that it deals with flow, style and readability. As the name suggests, it looks at the writing line by line at the sentence and paragraph level.

So instead of matters of syntax (grammar, punctuation and spelling), line editing looks at any areas sentences can be tweaked for readability, a better presentation of ideas, clarity of phrasing or improved word choice. It’s all about fine-tuning clunky elements that can be removed or switched up.

RELATED READ: How to Perform a Sentence-Level Copy Edit

The importance of line editing

If you look at editing in terms of a large to small focus, copyediting focuses on the minutiae—the spelling, tenses, punctuation and grammar. Line editing takes a step back to consider how sentences and paragraphs hang together, so it’s a slightly bigger picture edit.

It considers things like the kind of language used to illustrate a setting and the atmosphere, emotion, or tone it invokes. It might adjust cliches or broad generalizations so fresher language is used and new ideas. And it edits any areas where the language or structure needs a cleaner, more fluid flow.

Redundancies, unnatural phrasing, consistency, style, overused words, incorrect word use and run-on sentences are bread and butter for the line editor to get their editing fingers into.

Tips and steps for line editing

If you would like to tackle some line editing yourself, here are some areas to consider looking at.

Tone of the passage

A line editor should assess a writer’s style as they progress and ensure that this remains consistent throughout, with no narrative digresses, and that the tone of the actual passage is in keeping with this and with what is happening in the plot. So, at a climactic point, humour might not be the best choice, nor sarcasm. Whereas increasing tension to a culminating point might work best with high action, pithy dialogue and fast-paced sequences.

Run-on sentences

A run-on sentence is made up of two or more independent clauses that are not joined correctly or should be made into separate sentences. The length of these sentences is not the problem, but the grammatical makeup of them.

I love ice cream I would eat one every day if I could

→ I love ice cream. I would eat one every day if I could.

Another common problem is separating ideas that should be joined.

I wanted to go to New York. To visit the Statue of Liberty and watch baseball in Central Park.

→ I wanted to go to New York to visit the Statute of Liberty and watch baseball in Central Park

Tighten it up

Part of line editing is to improve phrasing and some of that means trimming off unwanted fat in the use of unnecessary words, repetition and overused words. Words like that, also, very, honestly, absolutely and always are sometimes unnecessary in sentences and add little to the meaning of it. Here are some examples of ways to trim sentences:

a little bit of → a little / a bit

James was on his way to → James went to

he said that he was hungry → he was hungry

often, she sometimes went out → she sometimes went out

immediately now → now

RELATED READ: Online Editing Services – What Do I Really Need?

Better word choices

Cliches like star-crossed lovers, a perfect storm, a can of worms and plenty of fish in the sea are phrases that have been used a million times. They can be tired and old, and you can inject a fresh feel and novelty into your work by trying to think of alternatives.

Along with consistent narrative presentations, the line editor might also consider if word choice is clear or ambiguous. For example, is “a boiling orb” understood as the sun, or it’s best to stick to the names of known planetary bodies?

Why hire a professional editor to do your line editing?

While you might be able to do a bit of self-editing, it is always wise to hire a professional editor to look at your work. This is an important process in the development of your manuscript, as editors are not only objective and able to look at your work more clinically, but trained to look for the kind of sentence structure issues mentioned above. They handle cliches, sentence structure, language tone, and word choice every day. In short, they have an arsenal of suggestions ready that will benefit you.

Useful links

If you would like more advice on the services we offer at First Editing, the prices for different levels of editing and what the different levels are that we offer, please consider these helpful blogs:

Editing Services Prices

Online Editing Services – What Do I Really Need?


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