Stylistic editing is a stage of editing that is, unlike content or developmental editing, focused on language. We’ve all got idiosyncrasies and preferences of our own, so here we just make sure that your individual style is smooth, consistent, and clear.
What does stylistic editing involve?
During a stylistic revision, the editor reads through to check that your text flows smoothly from sentence to sentence and paragraph to paragraph. Any wording that renders the message unclear, confusing, or awkward is addressed or at least highlighted. Your editor will help you tighten up your prose by removing unnecessary words, gutting out redundancies, and looking for opportunities to use words and phrases that express the intended meaning more efficiently. Importantly, a good editor does all this without compromising authorial voice.
During this revision, your editor may alter sentence and paragraph structure. Sometimes, it’s for grammar: Dangling modifiers will be un-dangled, run-on sentences and fragments will be paired or unpaired as appropriate, and conjunctions will be reassigned jobs when necessary. Other times, it will be, as the name of this type of editing implies, a matter of style. For example, grammatically speaking, a sentence need never end. As long as punctuation and the correct coordinating conjunctions are used with well-placed modifying phrases and appositives, a sentence could probably carry on as infinitely as the number π. But unnecessarily long sentences are a strain on the brain and they tend to confuse—or worse, bore—your reader. Stylistically, they are therefore inadvisable unless absolutely necessary or serving some kind of literary effect.
But of course, that’s not all. To learn more about stylistic editing, check out the standards and goals of stylistic editing shared as published by the Editors Canada Association. It’s intended for editors, but it’s a great way to understand what your editor is aiming for during this stage.
When am I ready for stylistic editing?
Stylistic editing should only come once you’re confident that the content of your manuscript is solid. And by confident, I mean that minimally, you’ve already incorporated feedback from objective outsiders (e.g., editors or beta readers). In other words, in terms of what the book is essentially made of, it’s finished.
If you’re writing nonfiction, this means that the structure your manuscript has been decided: chapters and sections have been well-organized; your arguments have been refined and supported; explanations, examples, and illustrations are provided where appropriate; and digressions have been rooted out. For fiction, you’re ready for stylistic editing when your story has been told: your fully characters and plot are fully developed. A stylistic revision will not aim to alter pace, suggest alterations in plot, or breathe life into your dialogue. Still concerned about these aspects? Consider another round of developmental editing!
How much does stylistic editing cost?
As with any editing services, prices vary wildly. You can find freelancers and digital editorial companies that will offer prices as low as $0.01/word, but it’s advisable to be wary of super cheap and/or quick editing services, especially when it comes to refining the language of your text. It takes time to read and consider what makes a particular text feel clumsy or awkward and how to remedy it. Generally several reads are needed to guarantee flow and cohesion after the initial problems were noted and adjustments were made. If it takes your editor an hour to revise 1000 words for all the aspects listed above, $0.01/word amounts to $10/hour. Generally, qualified and talented editors aim to earn about $35-50/hour for their time, so you can more reasonably expect to pay around $0.03-0.05/word for a stylistic revision.