Academic Editing Services

The aim of functional editing is a document you can submit with confidence.


We break the editing service we provide into three distinct services, and list the various tasks carried out by your editor under three headings: Copy Editing, Substantive Editing and Final Review.

We provide illustrative examples in each of the following sections, and more detailed examples here.

The term ‘proofreading’ is often (incorrectly) used to mean ‘editing’; although a modern editor does much more than that. ‘Proofreading’ only means checking a manuscript against the first print-out after the type has been set in lead by a compositor in a process called ‘typesetting’. Text hasn’t been set in lead for more than 30 years, since typesetting was replaced by computerised typesetting. Computerised typesetting doesn’t change a single letter of a writer’s manuscript, so proofreading is no longer needed. FunctionalEdit certainly carries out a range of tasks that some people still call proofreading, such as checking spelling, grammar, punctuation and formatting of in-text citations, but these are all part of Copy Editing.

Copy Editing

Copy Editing means carefully checking for and fixing those issues that are obviously wrong. This makes the difference between a document that is likely to irritate a thesis examiner or a journal or book editor; that shows little care and has multiple errors or breaches of publication conventions: and a document likely to succeed because it presents and reads well. Here’s a list of issues checked and attended to:

  • Typographical, spelling and minor grammatical errors.
  • Punctuation.
  • Spelling using Word dictionary (British/Australian/US).
  • Numbering of tables, figures, examples, lists, chapters, sections.
  • Terminology, capitalisation and abbreviations for consistency.
  • Citations against list of references & vice versa.
  • Citations conform with style guide.
  • In-text quotations for quotation marks (double/single) and their placement.
  • Block quotations for placement of attribution / quotation marks.
  • Sentence structure, including for its relations to preceding and following sentences.

This list, while extensive, is still not comprehensive — other issues such as publication conventions may come to the editor’s notice while editing your document and those will be attended to as well.

A document that has not been Copy Edited, that leaves all sorts of glitches and errors uncorrected, is not ready for submission, no matter how brilliant its content.

Copy Editing Example

Here’s an example of a text that was copy edited by FunctionalEdit, showing corrections of one of the issues listed above: making the citations conform to the style guide specified for the thesis (APA6).

To read the text or the changes make to it by the editor, note that text inserted by the editor is shown in colour, and text deleted by the editor is shown in the column on the right. Inserted text might have replaced deleted text, or it is text inserted without simultaneous deletion of other text.

copy editing example

This is an unusual extract because all of the changes concern just one issue: making the citations conform to the style guide. Usually, even a small portion of text will have changes made to it that span the whole list of tasks specified under Copy Editing.

Substantive Editing

Substantive Editing includes Copy Editing. Substantive Editing means carefully checking for issues such as:

  • Ensure tables and figures conform to guidelines.
  • Ensure appropriate style of expression.
  • Rewrite at sentence level to improve flow.
  • Review choice of theme / topic at paragraph and section level.
  • Flag where additional material may be required.
  • Flag doubtful facts or dubious argumentation.
  • Flag where restructure at section / chapter level may be required.

Example of Substantive Editing

Here’s an example of a text that underwent Substantive Editing by FunctionalEdit, showing corrections of several of the issues listed above.

example of substative editing

Final Review

In Final Review the editor checks the revisions made by the author in response to comments made in the initial round of editing. It does not mean the editor reviewing the whole document — that would be very time-consuming, and thus costly, and is not necessary. To carry out this final review efficiently and effectively we ask the writer to apply colour to the text that is new or changed.

This Final Review is strongly recommended, especially for non-native speakers, to avoid having language errors find their way into the final text. But a review is of value to all writers, since the writer’s revision of a small portion of text must also cohere with what comes before and after it, and it has to be soundly argued, so the editor will read it in the context of a paragraph or sub-section.

Example of Final Review

Yellow highlight stands out when scrolling the document. The editor knows, by prior arrangement, that he is to review only the revised text. If it’s found to be okay, the editor will remove the colour and delete the comment.

example of final review


Here are some examples of problems that an editor can help you avoid. These examples are from documents edited by FunctionalEdit.

  1. University assignment by a non-native speaker non-native example
    Editor’s changes are a mix of Copy Editing and Substantive Editing tasks.
  2. Research Proposal by a non-native speakerResearch Proposal example
    Editor’s comments are typical of Substantive Editing.
  3. Thesis Abstract by a non-native speaker
    Thesis Abstract Example
    Editor’s comments are typical of Substantive Editing.
  4. Article for publication by a non-native speaker
    Article for Publication Example
    Editor’s comments are typical of Substantive Editing.
  5. Reference List in Thesis
    Reference List in Thesis Example
    Editor checking references for conformance with Vancouver (amended).