One of the biggest mistakes I made when I first started writing was to equate the word “editing” with merely correcting grammar and spelling. Although that is certainly an integral part of the editing process, it is by no means the only one. It wasn’t until I started working in publishing that I realized there were names for the multiple stages of editing that a published work of writing undergoes, along with a recommended order of doing them. In the fanfiction community especially (where I got my start as a writer), “beta readers” will often edit multiple levels at the same time, but for writers who are considering selling their work, it can make sense to go through the more formal editorial process.
First comes developmental editing, then copyediting, and finally—just before the piece is published—proofreading. Aspiring authors can help critiquers by signaling what kind of editing they’re looking for, i.e., saying whether one is willing to rewrite entire sections of a piece, or whether one wants to keep the bulk of the text intact but just have it polished. By using the jargon associated with the different levels of editing, authors can communicate their needs quickly and also begin to learn the language of professional publishing.