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Structural editing for the author

Structural editing (also known as substantive editing) is utilised when a document requires more than a copy edit. It involves making substantive or structural changes to a document, whether a book manuscript, educational text, academic paper or business report/promotional material. The terms structural and substantive editing are often used interchangeably.

This level of editing can involve a structural review of:

  • content
  • language and style
  • presentation clarity and document flow cohesion
  • consistent use of voice and tone throughout a document

Structural editing evaluates whether the content of your document or manuscript will be comprehensible to the reader and uses the appropriate:

  • tone
  • style
  • language
  • terminology

for its intended readership. This level of editing also evaluates whether the:

  • chapter arrangement is logical
  • length of the document is appropriate
  • text has a cohesive flow.

Substantive or structural editing is not about rewriting a manuscript or document in an editor’s words but involves working closely with the author to clarify their intention. It assists with correcting and improving the work to meet the both the target readership needs and the publisher's or company’s editorial style.

When editing for structure in fiction and nonfiction documents, I consider important questions such as:

  • What is the genre?
  • Is the writing style suited to the genre?
  • Is the tone, level of language and terminology suited to the genre?
  • Who is the likely readership? Will the tone, style, language and terminology appeal to this readership?
  • What is the manuscript’s purpose?
  • Is the content well organised or does it lack cohesion?
  • Will the content keep the reader interested?
  • Does the content have pace?
  • Are there any redundant, excess or repetitive passages or chapters?
  • Are any additional materials or reader aids required?
  • Are all arguments and is all information presented clearly?
  • Have shortened forms and specific terms been explained properly, either in the text or endmatter (or both)?
  • Is the referencing suited to the type of document/manuscript?

When editing for structure, I also consider the actual sequence of sentence, phrases and paragraphs as well as their logical and orderly flow.

This is important as an illogical structure can confuse readers and detract from author credibility.

Procedure for structural editing

A structural edit does not involve checking for punctuation, spelling or grammar as these fall within the scope of copy editing.

It involves reading through your manuscript or document to obtain a broad overview. I then make notes about language, style, structure and flow. Upon reading the manuscript a second time, I will make more detailed notes which will form the basis of my report to you, the writer.

Notes are not made on the manuscript itself but the strengths and weaknesses are highlighted in the report to you. This report is for making suggestions for improvement, which you then can decide to carry out or not. I do not make the changes for you.

The structural edit process is not about changing your creation through the wielding of a blue or red pen, but is a positive and helpful report containing constructive feedback and improvement recommendations.

"Juliette has demonstrated an excellent familiarity and understanding of genres in text. She is skilled at identifying the tone and voice of fictional extracts in great detail. Her suggestions when reviewing content to to suit intended readerships are always spot on, and she displays great confidence and ability in structural editing."     S Hidoo, National Editor Trainer, AC

"Juliette had such amazing insight when reading my manuscript. She was able to guide me through this very monumentous task gently and effectively. I am so thrilled that she was able to help me." Dr Katie Richard, Clinical Psychologist and non-fiction author of  Weight off your mind