Developmental Editing

Developmental editing is the first level of editing, where your attention is on the shape of the content and story of the manuscript, and should be completed before you consider submitting a project to a journal, book editor, or a publisher. At this level, you’re addressing the very foundation of your manuscript and the ideas it presents. Your developmental editor is here to give you the brutal constructive feedback you’ve been yearning for as you revise.

A developmental editor will help you with the following:

  • Address big-picture issues to improve your manuscript and writing as a whole 
  • Define your argument and ensure that it flows throughout the manuscript
  • Make sure that the evidence used to support the thesis is strong and appropriately used
  • Organize your sections so that they provide sufficient context and evidence to support your argument
  • Aid in the incorporation of or response to peer reviewer / reader feedback
  • Ensure that you’re using the right tone and voice for the type of publication you’re aiming for
  • Suggest ways that you can cut down or boost word count
  • Improve one specific aspect you’re struggling with or suggest how you can rebuild from scratch

A subject specialist can even give you advice on content.

Typical projects that need a developmental edit are works in progress: dissertations that are being turned into books, journal articles that have not received favorable reviews, nonfiction books or essays with a weak storyline, and any other manuscript that the author feels is weak or could be strengthened with a second pair of eyes. Consider your developmental editor an advisor—a not-anonymous peer reviewer who can give you targeted feedback to improve your manuscript.

Graduate students can take advantage of our manuscript assessments for their work at a 10% discount.*

We offer two types of developmental editing services:

Report + Call

One of our developmental editors will read your manuscript and send you a detailed report outlining their findings, including the manuscript’s key strengths and weaknesses; big-picture revision advice for the manuscript’s narrative arc, argument, structure, and scholarly engagement; and chapter-by-chapter or section-by-section revision advice. We also provide you with a plan of action for how to make those changes yourself before you submit. This service includes a virtual call to go over the report and review any questions you have, which should be booked within 14 days of receipt of the editor’s feedback.

Price: Depends on length. Note: word count does not include font matter, citations/bibliography, or back matter. Please refer to our academic editing and editing for authors pages for up-to-date pricing.

Includes: Editor’s report, 30-minute call with editor (for manuscripts up to 50k words) or 60-minute call with editor (above 50k words). We also include an initial call before the editor gets to work to discuss needs/strategy and check-ins, as needed, particularly for long projects.

When: You should get a manuscript assessment before you plan to submit your manuscript to the journal or publisher of your choice, while you still have time to make edits and undergo other rounds of editing (i.e., copyediting), if you want to.

How long does it take? A typical journal article takes about 1 week to complete a manuscript assessment and a book manuscript starts at 2–3 weeks.

Document edits + report + Calls

Developmental editing is used to address big-picture content issues, including the argument, analysis, organization/structure, engagement with sources, and authorial tone of your manuscript. We not only provide you with notes and comments on the draft, but we also help you massage the text using MS Word’s TrackChanges to improve your manuscript’s “story,” for example by moving paragraphs or sections, renaming sections or chapters, inserting sample transitions and blocking out places where more evidence is needed so that you know exactly what needs to be transformed to get the response you desire.*

Additionally, you will receive a detailed report outlining the editor’s findings, including the manuscript’s key strengths and weaknesses; big-picture revision advice for the book/chapter/essay’s narrative arc, argument, structure, and audience engagement; and chapter-by-chapter or section-by-section revision advice. We also provide you with a plan of action for how to make those changes yourself before you (re)submit. This service includes a virtual call to go over the report and review any questions you have, which should be booked within 14 days of receipt of the editor’s feedback.

Price: Depends on length. Note: word count does not include font matter, citations/bibliography, or back matter. Please refer to our academic editing and editing for authors pages for up-to-date pricing.

Includes: Editor’s report and in-line comments and revisions to manuscript, 30-minute call with editor (for manuscripts up to 50k words) or 60-minute call with editor (above 50k words). We also include an initial call before the editor gets to work to discuss needs/strategy and optional check-in calls with the editor to discuss their progress.

The manual edits to the manuscript include such things as moving around paragraphs, sections, or chapters; inserting “dummy” text for missing transitions or areas that need more support (although not ghostwriting new paragraphs for support/evidence); comments on what the author should revise on their own or where evidence can be added/removed; suggesting new chapter and section titles; and more. This service does NOT include correcting grammar or punctuation or rewriting or ghostwriting content (see other services listed below for this).

When: You should consider a full developmental edit when you’re still working out your ideas, when you need help massaging your ideas from one format to another (e.g., dissertation to book manuscript), or when you need assistance implementing reader reports. 

How long does it take? A typical journal article takes about 1 week to complete a developmental edit and a book manuscript starts at around 3–4 weeks.

*Note: Developmental edits are used to address big-picture issues and are not intended to address sentence- or line-level issues, such as the flow of sentences, grammar mistakes, or the application of a style manual. For help with this, check out our line editing and/or copyediting services.

* We do not perform full developmental edits, where the editor transforms your text for you, on graduate student work for ethical reasons. We can help with coaching and provide manuscript assessments to address issues with argumentation, structure, and voice; however, detailed developmental edits should be handled by your advisor. Then, once you’ve defended, we offer developmental services as you consider revising your dissertation into a book.

Need help with something else?

Writing Style

Improve word choice

Improve sentence syntax

Address transitions between sentences and paragraphs

Ensure voice and tone are appropriate for audience

"Smooth" rough translations to English from another language

Dramatically cut word count

Mechanics

Correct grammar and punctuation errors

Correct sentence syntax

Apply a style manual like the Chicago Manual of Style, APA, or MLA to body text and citations (footnotes, endnotes, bibliography)

Ensure consistency

Eliminate repetition

The Final Step

Double-check publisher proofs

Catch stray typos and incorrect punctuation

Address layout and typesetting issues like line and word breaks, widows and orphans

Illustration placement and caption consistency

Running header and chapter title consistency

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