substantive editing

S ubstantive editing (or structural editing) focuses on the overall structure of your document. Whether you are writing for clients, customers, academics, students or children, I make sure the format, style and tone are suitable for your purpose. Any major rewriting or rewording is done during this stage.

A substantive edit may take in the following areas:

Structure and content
  • The table of contents is formatted to suit the way readers will use the document.
  • Chapters may be reorganised so that topics are covered in a balanced way.
  • Material may be reordered, removed or added to create a logical structure.
  • Subheadings and captions may be added so readers can quickly find their way.
  • Quotes or tips may be highlighted in boxes or sidebars.
  • Additional notes may be included as footnotes, appendixes or chapter notes.
  • Some information may be summarised in tables, graphs or maps.
  • An index, an abstract or cross-references may be helpful in a complex document.
  • Illustrations are chosen to suit the interests and age of the readers.
  • A glossary may be added to help readers understand unfamiliar words.


  • A coherent style is applied across all parts of your document.
  • A referencing style is chosen to suit the type of document.
  • The language level and tone are chosen to suit the audience and the topic.
  • Regional words might be changed or explained for an overseas audience.
  • Headings may be reworded to match your preferred style.
  • Plain English rewording may make your document easier to understand.


Substantive editing is the first stage of a comprehensive edit; copy editing and proofreading follow.