A document may undergo more than one editorial review, each for a different purpose. The type of edit the manual gets usually depends upon where it is in the product cycle. For example, a developmental edit of the manual would occur early in the cycle, around the pre-alpha test or alpha time frame when there may be more time to address issues such as organization and structure. A copy edit is best during the beta review, when the manual is more complete and stable. Before it goes to press, the book should receive a proofreading.
Developmental editing is hard to define because its functions depend upon the documentation set or book under consideration. You can think of developmental editing as a phase in the production of a document rather than a series of discrete tasks. It is the phase when restructuring of a set or a book, reorganization of chapters or sections, and major rewriting (or suggestions for rewriting) should be done. The issues the editor raises during a developmental edit can affect the character of subsequent sections or chapters of a document, especially if the edit is done on a sample chapter or an early draft of a manual. A developmental editor assesses the overall focus and direction of the manual. Some global copy editing issues may be raised at this time, especially when they provide the writer with examples of style or word usage. See "Developmental Editing Checklist" for the items reviewed during a developmental edit.
The editor does minimal rewriting, if any, during a copy edit because issues regarding structure and organization have been addressed throughout the developmental edit. At the copy editing stage the editor performs two kinds of review: mechanical editing and editing for house style. Mechanical editing addresses such issues as punctuation, capitalization, subject-verb agreement, and so forth. Editing for house style involves interpreting and applying the strictures of house style. The editor also reads for correct usage of fonts, word processor tags,
or other markup; structural elements (for example, tables, illustrations, lists);
and the like. The best time for a copy edit, also called a line edit, is before or during the beta review. See "Copy Editing Checklist" for the items reviewed during a copy edit.
Proofreading is the last step that writers and editors can take to ensure further quality. It involves one final scan of the document for errors that may have been overlooked in previous reviews. The writer also may have introduced new mistakes when incorporating new technical material or editorial comments. The proofreader's primary responsibility is to make sure that typographical errors, incorrect font usage, and formatting mistakes have not crept into the document. See "Proofreading Checklist" for the items reviewed during a proofreading pass.