Developmental editing is a type of editing that focuses on the big picture of a manuscript. It looks at the overall structure, content, and flow of the work, rather than just grammar and punctuation. The goal is to help the author improve the organization, clarity, and impact of their writing.

Key points

1. Big picture focus:

  • Developmental editing examines the overall story or argument, ensuring that the main ideas are clear and well-developed. It looks at the manuscript from a high-level perspective to identify areas that need improvement.

2. Structure and organization:

  • This type of editing ensures that the content is logically organized. It checks that each part of the manuscript fits together cohesively, with a clear beginning, middle, and end. The editor might suggest rearranging sections or chapters for better flow.

3. Character and plot development (for fiction):

  • In fiction, developmental editing helps refine characters, plotlines, and pacing. It ensures that characters are well-developed, the plot is engaging, and the pacing keeps readers interested. The editor may suggest adding or removing scenes, enhancing character motivations, or tightening the narrative.

4. Clarity and consistency:

  • The editor identifies areas where the writing may be confusing or inconsistent. They provide suggestions to improve clarity and ensure that the tone, style, and voice are consistent throughout the manuscript.

5. Feedback and suggestions:

  • Developmental editors provide detailed feedback and suggestions for revisions. They might offer ideas for new scenes, point out plot holes, or suggest ways to develop themes more effectively. However, the author retains control over the final decisions and changes.


1. Initial evaluation:

  • The editor reads the manuscript to understand its strengths and weaknesses. They assess the overall structure, content, and flow, taking notes on areas that need improvement.

2. Detailed analysis:

  • The editor provides a comprehensive critique, often in the form of an editorial letter. This letter outlines the main issues and offers detailed suggestions for revision.

3. Revision guidance:

  • The editor works closely with the author, providing guidance and support as they revise the manuscript. This may involve multiple rounds of feedback and revisions.

4. Final review:

  • Once the major revisions are complete, the editor reviews the manuscript again to ensure all issues have been addressed and the manuscript is ready for the next stage of editing.


Developmental editing significantly enhances the quality of the manuscript, making it more engaging, coherent, and polished. A well-edited manuscript is more likely to attract the attention of publishers, agents, and readers, increasing its chances of success. Additionally, working with a developmental editor helps authors improve their writing skills, providing valuable insights and learning opportunities.