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.

Structurally editing fiction and nonfiction manuscripts involves establishing:

  • 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 end matter (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 does involve 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 often made on the manuscript itself via Track Changes comment boxes, while its strengths and weaknesses are highlighted in a 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, but I will often provide you with an example of what your manuscript could look like with the structural changes in place. This makes it easier for you see the overall vision for your manuscript. I then collaborate with you to make these changes.

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.

Editors Queensland


"As a first time author, Juliette was an invaluable asset to crafting the final version of my novel. Many aspects of the editing process that typically would have overwhelmed me were detailed clearly and compassionately. Sensitive material that required a deft touch were handled professionally and with an uncanny insight into the intended direction. An absolute pleasure to work with." David Hull, Published fiction author

"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