Line editing explained

The line edit is the first stage of copy editing. It is sometimes called a ‘rough copy edit’.

Line editing can only be commenced once the manuscript (or other document) is structurally sound and ready for copy editing.

Line editing will not correct all the errors in the document. The line editing (or ‘rough copy editing’) task is to correct or improve the tone, style and consistency of the manuscript. If required, the document might also be fact-checked during one of the line editing passes. If indexing is required this will require a separate ‘editing pass’ by either the line editor or an indexer.

What does the line editor do?

During this first ‘line edit’ or ‘rough copy edit’, the editor:

  1. identifies any structural issues which still need to be addressed; if necessary, the document may have to undergo more structural editing
  2. uses the chosen manual as a guide when editing the document; e.g. a standard manual used in Australia is the (Government) Style Manual
  3. utilises and adds to the style sheet (which may have been created during the structural editing stage) for the publication/document. The style sheet outlines the style rules not covered in (or that contradict) the chosen manual or style guide. The style sheet includes rules about punctuation, spelling, acronyms, capitalisation of words, and instructions about fonts and headings. It is a working document to which the editor adds new items as they arise
  4. corrects or improves the grammar. Where appropriate, rewrites sentences or paragraphs, moves sentences or paragraphs to different positions and/or deletes text
  5. if fact-checking is required, the editor fact-checks information (for example, places, events, links, references) to ensure all the information and attributions in the manuscript/document are correct
  6. corrects the spelling and punctuation errors that they notice, although their main focus is on correcting and improving the grammar and the manuscript as a whole, not correcting the minor errors (which will be corrected in the next copy editing stage).

Depending on the standard of the manuscript and number of corrections needed, the document may more than one pass to complete the line editing stage. A manuscript that needs a lot of corrections and/or rewriting may need three or four passes to bring it to the stage where it is ready for the final copy editing pass.

For information about the other stages of editing, go to:

For articles about different types of proofreading, go to: Editing and proofreading.

Image: Pixabay Creative Commons licence (no attribution required)

Proofread by Dee Sansom, On Time Typing


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