a comprehensive guide to line-editing


Line-editing is an essential step in the writing process that focuses on improving the clarity, coherence, and overall effectiveness of the writing on a sentence-by-sentence basis. It involves scrutinizing each line to ensure it conveys the intended meaning, adheres to the writer’s style and voice, and engages the reader effectively. Line-editing is a meticulous and detail-oriented task, and it requires a keen eye for grammar, punctuation, syntax, and word choice.

What is line-editing?

Line-editing is a critical stage of the editing process that involves carefully reviewing and revising each line (hence the name) of a written piece to improve its clarity, coherence, and overall quality. It focuses on refining the language, syntax, grammar, and punctuation to ensure that the writing is effective and engaging for the reader.

Levels of Editing - (line-edit include)

Line-edit comes before copy-edit and after evaluation and content editing.

Related: Levels of Editing

Review the Overall Structure Before diving into line-editing, take a moment to review the overall structure and organization of your piece. Ensure that the flow of ideas is logical and that the content is well-organized. Look for any gaps in the narrative or arguments that you still need to address.

Step 1: Focus on Clarity

Line-editing involves making each sentence as clear and concise as possible. Look for sentences that are awkwardly constructed or difficult to understand and revise them for clarity. Remove any unnecessary jargon, clichés, or redundant phrases that can confuse readers.

Before Line-Editing:

“The intricacies and nuances of the complex algorithm were deeply embedded within the system, making it difficult for users to fully comprehend and grasp the functionality.”

After Line-Editing:

“The algorithm’s complexities were deeply embedded within the system, making it difficult for users to fully grasp its functionality.”

In this example, the line-editing process focused on clarity by removing unnecessary jargon (“intricacies and nuances”) and redundant phrases (“fully comprehend and grasp”), resulting in a clearer and more concise sentence that conveys the same message without being cumbersome or confusing for the reader.

Step 2: Check for Grammar and Punctuation Errors

Carefully examine each sentence for grammar and punctuation errors. Look for subject-verb agreement, verb tense consistency, and proper use of commas, periods, and other punctuation marks. Correct any spelling mistakes or typos.

Before Line-Editing: “The student’s has done they’re research, but he hasn’t submit the paper yet. Their grades might suffer if he doesn’t turn it in on time.”

After Line-Editing: “The student has done their research, but they haven’t submitted the paper yet. Their grades might suffer if they don’t turn it in on time.”

In this example, the line-editing process focused on checking for grammar and punctuation errors. Subject-verb agreement was corrected (“student has” instead of “student’s has,” “they haven’t” instead of “he hasn’t”), verb tense consistency was maintained (“has done” and “haven’t submitted”), and proper use of pronouns was ensured (“their research” and “their grades” instead of “he” and “he’s”). Additionally, punctuation marks were properly used, and spelling mistakes (“submit” instead of “submit”) were corrected. These changes result in a more grammatically accurate and error-free sentence.

Step 3: Enhance Sentence Structure

Varying sentence structure adds rhythm and interest to your writing. Avoid using too many long or short sentences in a row. Incorporate a mix of simple, compound, and complex sentences to create a natural flow.

Before Line-Editing: “The sun was setting, casting a beautiful golden hue over the mountains. The birds were chirping happily, and the breeze was gently blowing through the trees. I felt a sense of calm and peace as I sat on the grass and gazed at the picturesque landscape.”

After Line-Editing: “As the sun set, it cast a beautiful golden hue over the mountains. The birds chirped happily, and the gentle breeze rustled through the trees. Sitting on the grass, I gazed at the picturesque landscape, feeling a sense of calm and peace.”

In this example, line-editing improved the sentence structure by varying the length and structure of the sentences. The revised version creates a more natural flow and adds rhythm to the writing by using a mix of simple and compound sentences.

Step 4: Refine Word Choice Choose

Words that are precise, vivid, and appropriate for the context. Avoid using repetitive words or phrases. Use a thesaurus to find synonyms that add depth to your writing.

Before Line-Editing: “The big, gigantic house on the top of the hill looked very nice. The beautiful flowers in the garden were really pretty, and the delicious food at the party was amazing.”

After Line-Editing: “The grand mansion on the hilltop exuded elegance. The vibrant flowers in the garden added a touch of beauty, and the delectable cuisine at the party was truly remarkable.”

In this example, line-editing improved the word choice by using more descriptive and specific words. The revised version replaced general terms like “big” and “nice” with more precise adjectives like “grand” and “elegant.” This enhances the overall clarity and vividness of the writing, making it more engaging and appealing to the reader.

Step 5: Address Tone and Voice

Ensure that the tone and voice of your writing remain consistent throughout. If you’re writing in a formal tone, avoid colloquial language or slang. If you’re writing in a conversational tone, make sure it stays conversational throughout.

Before Line-Editing:

“The movie was a complete disaster. I can’t believe they wasted so much money on such a terrible project. The director should be ashamed of themselves.”

After Line-Editing:

“The movie left much to be desired. The budget seemed disproportionately spent on a project that didn’t quite meet expectations. One might question the director’s choices.”

In this example, line-editing addresses tone and voice to create a more balanced and measured expression of the writer’s opinion. The revised version avoids using strong, emotional language like “complete disaster” and “terrible” and instead opts for more nuanced and diplomatic phrasing. By adjusting the tone and voice, the writer maintains a more professional and respectful approach while still conveying their point of view.

Step 6: Trim Excess Words

Line-editing is an excellent opportunity to tighten your writing and eliminate unnecessary words. Trim any excess words or phrases that do not contribute to the meaning or clarity of the sentence.

Before Line-Editing: “After carefully considering all of the options available to us, we have come to the conclusion that it would be in our best interest to make a decision regarding the matter at hand as soon as possible.”

After Line-Editing: “After considering our options, we conclude that a prompt decision is in our best interest.”

In this example, line-editing involves trimming excess words to make the sentence more concise and straightforward. Unnecessary phrases like “carefully,” “available to us,” and “regarding the matter at hand” are removed to streamline the sentence. The revised version conveys the same meaning in a more succinct and efficient manner.

Step 7: Check for Consistency

Ensure consistency in capitalization, hyphenation, and formatting. Check that proper nouns, names, and titles are spelled consistently throughout the piece.

Before Line-Editing:

“The protagonist’s name is spelled ‘Jonathan’ in the first chapter, but later, it is spelled as ‘Johnathan’ in the second chapter. Also, in Chapter 3, the protagonist’s age is mentioned as 30, but in Chapter 7, it is stated as 28.”

After Line-Editing:

“The protagonist’s name is consistently spelled as ‘Jonathan’ throughout the novel. Additionally, his age is consistently stated as 28 in all chapters.”

In this example, line-editing involves checking for consistency in spelling and information. The editor identifies discrepancies in the protagonist’s name and age and ensures that they are corrected throughout the entire manuscript. Consistency is essential in maintaining a seamless and coherent narrative for readers.

Step 8: Read Aloud

Reading your work aloud can help you identify awkward or clunky sentences. It also allows you to hear the rhythm and flow of your writing, making it easier to catch any issues. I also recommend using writing apps that have AI readers such as yWriter.

Step 9: Seek Feedback

After line-editing your work, consider seeking feedback from others. Fresh eyes can spot errors or areas for improvement that you might have missed.

This last tip is optional, but may work for those of you who are still in the ‘training stage’ of line editing. Hemingway is an online app – you paste in the text and Hemingway automatically highlights problems in your writing.

Examples of Line-Editing:

  1. Original Sentence: “She walked quickly through the crowded room, trying to find her friend who was already there.” Line-Edited Sentence: “She hurried through the bustling room, searching for her friend who had arrived early.”
  2. Original Sentence: “The book was extremely fascinating to read, and I couldn’t put it down until the very end.” Line-Edited Sentence: “The book proved captivating, holding my attention until the final page.”
  3. Original Sentence: “The meeting was scheduled to take place at 2:00 pm in the afternoon.” Line-Edited Sentence: “The meeting was scheduled for 2:00 pm.”
  4. Original Sentence: “His speech was filled with a lot of different examples that were related to the topic he was discussing.” Line-Edited Sentence: “His speech included numerous relevant examples.”
  5. Original Sentence: “The restaurant is known for serving a wide variety of different cuisines from around the world.” Line-Edited Sentence: “The restaurant is renowned for its diverse global cuisines.”

In each example, the line-editing process involved clarifying and streamlining the language, eliminating unnecessary words, improving sentence structure, and ensuring grammatical correctness. These changes enhance the overall readability and impact of the writing.

When should you line-edit?

Line-editing typically occurs during the later stages of the editing process, after the writer’s completed the initial structural and developmental edits. Once the writer has revised the overall structure, plot, and content of the piece, line-editing comes into play to fine-tune the language, style, and sentence-level details.

After completing the first draft, the writer or an editor will review the manuscript for clarity, coherence, grammar, syntax, punctuation, and other elements that affect the readability and flow of the text. Line-editing is a meticulous and detail-oriented process that focuses on each individual line, sentence, and paragraph to polish the writing and ensure that it meets high standards of quality.

Before line-editing, it’s essential to have addressed any major plot or structural issues during the developmental editing phase. Once you’ve refined those larger elements, line-editing becomes the next step to enhance the writing on a micro-level, making it more engaging and error-free.

After line-editing, the manuscript may go through a final proofreading stage to catch any remaining minor errors before publication or submission to an agent or publisher.

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