By Vimala Panikar, M.Com, Mumbai University
Editing is broadly classified by level of service into proofreading, copyediting, and substantive editing. Of these, the last is the most comprehensive. So, what exactly do substantive editors do? All that copyeditors and proofreaders do and much more! They cast a critical eye over all components of your document and see whether these link together as a coherent whole. They will
Thus, substantive editing involves a complete overhaul of your document—from the title to Appendix. Are you writing a journal article? Academic papers must usually follow a certain format and have a formal tone. Do you aim to get it published in a particular journal? You would, of course, be aware that most journals receive and desk-reject many more papers than they can ever publish—substantive editing can help you get past that goalpost more easily and at the review stage, help you address reviewers’ concerns more effectively. Even if you have not yet zeroed in on a journal, it’s best to keep in mind that journals usually have some common benchmarks related to language and presentation. This is why substantive editing can be immensely helpful: A substantive editor is your collaborator, the language and subject matter expert who will polish your paper till it meets the publication standards of international journals.
Or are you writing a thesis or book? You will need to keep track of the narrative thread and also ensure each chapter flows seamlessly into the next—a geometrical increase in the complexities and challenges, thanks to the volume of content! This is when brainstorming with a substantive editor will be of immense help. You can opt for substantive editing at any point of the writing process, but it might be wise to get the editor’s view once your rough draft is ready. This way, you can easily incorporate editorial suggestions at the outset and develop the manuscript more effortlessly.
In summary, substantive editors will point out all possible ways and means to improve a document so that it is publication-ready—and this, while retaining the author’s “voice” to the extent possible.
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