Literary Editing

Literary editing is a process of implementing serious changes to the original author’s text intending to improve it. Rather often, people tend to confuse literary editing with proofreading, considering them to be either synonymous, or interchangeable. In fact, proofreading and literary editing differ significantly: the former mostly implies correcting rough mistakes, such as spelling or punctuation errors, whereas the latter is a full-scale editing process, including, among other things, the correction of syntax, style, morphology, and other kinds of mistakes. In other words, literary editing is a serious conversion of an author’s text, comprising numerous changes and improvements.

What is literary editing needed for

The main goal of literary editing is to make the form of the text correspond with its content. An expert performing this kind of job seeks to make the whole text literate, its logic – uncontroversial, and its composition – harmonious. One of editor’s duties is also the optimization of the text’s size, meaning that the editor seeks to shorten it in such a way that the text does not lose its initial meaning; usually it implies eliminating all kinds of repetitions, tautologies, overly explanatory fragments, superfluous descriptions, and so on.

Peculiar properties of the process

It must be mentioned that the correction of the roughest mistakes such as grammar and/or syntax ones is done right in the text, whereas the propositions on the improvements of style and composition are often presented as footnotes; the author, reading the footnotes and getting acquainted with the changes the editor made, can decide which option he/she would like to use, combine these options, or create a new variant of the text’s fragment, using all the previous options as a basis.

Literary editing also includes checking of the factual material, in case there is any in the text. For example, the editor checks accuracy of citations and correctness of their formatting, and the credibility of data such as statistics or references.


Generally speaking, literary editing is a global processing of author’s text, performed to make it literate, stylistically accurate (corresponding with the genre), logically uncontroversial, compositionally complete, easy to read, and credible. Literary editing lies in the competence of highly qualified specialists, because it includes a wide range of aspects and nuances, being if not the apex, then one of the highest levels of editing mastery.

Literary Editing