There are several different types of editors—and each industry and organization has its own definitions. This makes it difficult to come up with completely clear and objective descriptions, but I have done my best to compile a short list. There might be some missing roles or changed terminology. Several roles overlap, and somebody can have a single job title that still fills multiple roles.
A peer reviewer is not somebody who is in a true editing role, but someone who is responsible for giving short reviews and suggestions for improvement. They can pick up on major problems and let authors know if they are on the right track. A peer reviewer can be a critique partner (CP), who is often a writing peer, or a beta reader (BR), who is a representative of the author’s target audience.
An acquisitions editor searches for new writers, stories, and documents. They can also compile the works of various writers into anthologies or collections.
A project editor manages the overall progress of a project, including budgeting, scheduling, and approval. They oversee the efforts of all individuals involved in producing the final product. Project editors can also be referred to as managing editors.
A structural editor looks at text as a whole. In fiction, this covers areas such as plot, characterization, themes, voice, dialogue, pace, and flow. In non-fiction, this includes fact checking and clarity of explanation. A structural editor looks at how everything fits together, and identifies inconsistencies and inaccuracies. Structural editing is complex and time-consuming. Structural editors can also be referred to as substantive editors.
A stylistic editor is responsible for looking at text and making sure that it follows the desired guidelines of the author, organization, and intended audience. Some of these guidelines are determined by following a style guide. Responsibilities can include removing jargon, clarifying meaning, setting the tone of voice, correcting the reading level, and determining text format and layout. Stylistic editors can also be referred to as line editors.
A copyeditor is concerned with getting text ready for typesetting. In addition to looking at spelling, punctuation, and grammar, a copyeditor reviews consistency, wording, and legal issues. Illustrations, graphs, and tables, if present, are also reviewed.
A technical editor reviews technical and educational documentation. Subject matter expertise is useful, and the role involves both structural editing and copyediting—as well as stylistic editing if a document is supposed to match the formatting of other documents in a series. It can be difficult to find a good technical editor—somebody who has technical knowledge and experience with types of editing skills.
An indexer specializes in the creation of indexes from content. They have to parse the information in the text and provide page numbers that correspond to certain terms or references. This requires both accuracy and a good understanding of the needs of the target audience.
A proofreader is often the last person to review text. They look at spelling, grammar, punctuation, layout, and consistency. They check for correct typesetting. This includes verifying page numbering and page headings, ensuring that illustrations and captions correspond, making sure that styles are consistent, and checking that the table of contents and other internal references are correct. Proofreading markup is frequently applied by hand to physical copy.