What Is Developmental Editing?
  • 6-minute read
  • 24th November 2023

What Is Developmental Editing?

Crafting exceptional content for your business drives website traffic and increases conversions – and the process starts with developmental editing. In this article, we’ll cover everything you need to know about developmental editing, including why it’s important and where it fits into your content production process. 

Keep reading to get started.

Why You Need to Edit Your Business’s Content

When it comes to improving SEO and keeping potential customers on your web page, the quality of your content matters. And the best way to increase the overall effectiveness of your business’s website and broaden your reach is to thoroughly edit all content prior to publication. Although this process is time-consuming, a comprehensive edit is always worth the effort. It helps ensure the content you publish has the desired effect on your target audience, whether that’s convincing them to make a purchase, sign up for a free trial, or engage with social media.

Let’s take a closer look at developmental editing, the essential first step in the editing process.

What Is Developmental Editing?

Developmental editing, or structural editing, is typically the first step in the editing process and focuses on an in-depth review of the overall organization and flow of the content. A developmental edit happens long before the proofreading and copyediting stages and often involves feedback and suggestions on how to improve the quality of the writing. Essentially, the goal of developmental editing is to refine the structure and tone of the content as much as possible to ensure it meets your business’s specific objectives. 

Unlike other types of editing, developmental editing focuses on the big-picture elements of website content. It looks at the content as a whole, considering how each part contributes to overall audience impact. Developmental editing occurs only after the first draft of content is written (or sometimes before any content is drafted at all). Smaller, more focused changes, such as vocabulary choices, grammar and punctuation mistakes, and dialect differences are addressed later in the editing process.

The Developmental Editing Process

Developmental editing for business content typically includes the following steps.

1. Developing a Style Guide

To get the most out of developmental editing for your business, you need an updated, in-depth style guide that addresses essential details, such as your business’s specific tone of voice and preferred language guidelines. Having this ensures consistency across all platforms no matter where you are in the editing process and simplifies communication between the developmental editor and other key team members. Maintaining consistency in your content is an essential part of building trust and credibility with your audience, and these qualities increase customer loyalty, which in turn boosts valuable word-of-mouth recommendations. In fact, one survey found that 88% of consumers trust word-of-mouth recommendations when considering where to make a purchase. If you don’t already have a brand style guide, it’s a good idea to collaborate with your team to develop one that includes details specific to your goals and intended audience.

2. Examining the Overall Structure of the Content

Developmental editing assesses the overall structure and organization of the content before more targeted surface-level issues, such as sentence structure and grammar, are addressed. The process may involve:

  • Rearranging sections to improve the logical flow of the content 
  • Moving time-sensitive, significant details or product information to where potential customers are more likely to notice them
  • Adding features to improve scannability, such as bullet lists or headings
  • Removing or revising content that’s distracting or repetitive 
  • Identifying gaps or confusing elements in the content

At this stage of the process, rather than making direct edits, the editor may collaborate with the content production or marketing team and suggest areas where the content can be improved.

3. Assessing the Tone and Voice

An essential part of the developmental editing process is evaluating the tone and voice of the content to ensure they meet your style guidelines. These elements can vary significantly, even within one piece of content, so it’s important to consider the intended audience, what tone will most resonate with them (e.g., serious, funny, witty, motivational), and what would best suit your unique brand voice.

4. Considering Concision and Readability

To best engage your audience, content should be as direct and to the point as possible. According to one study, the average consumer’s attention span is only eight seconds, meaning you should (ideally) catch their interest almost as soon as they land on your page. During the developmental editing stage, edits for concision are made by cutting areas of repetition, redundant ideas, and unnecessary or impractical details. Content that’s high-quality yet easy to digest will most efficiently convey the intended message and stay in consumers’ minds when it’s time to make a purchase.

5. Ensuring the Content Aligns With Your Goals

The most important aspect of developmental editing is evaluating whether the content aligns with your objectives. The content your business publishes can have a wide range of purposes –informing, persuading, educating – and can vary depending on the content type and intended audience. Throughout the developmental editing process, content is checked to ensure it reflects your marketing strategy and buyer personas and addresses the needs of your audience wherever they are on the customer journey. These requirements are especially important if you use AI writing tools to scale content creation. Although AI can help you produce a high volume of content quickly, the content needs to be thoroughly edited to ensure it reaches your audience and meets your specific goals.

Outsourcing Developmental Editing

As you’ve probably gathered, developmental editing is an essential part of the content production process and shouldn’t be overlooked. However, it takes a substantial investment of time and effort for you and your teams to complete a comprehensive developmental edit of all your content. Outsourcing editing (e.g., to a freelance editor or team of editors) ensures you’ll always produce first-rate content, and outsourcing allows your team to shift their focus to other areas of the business (such as sales and conversions).

Proofed For Business Teams

If you’d like your content to make a lasting impact on your customers, Proofed for Business can help. Our editors can work with you step-by-step throughout the entire editing process and are proficient in a wide variety of document types and formats. Learn more about how we can help you meet your business goals.

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