Stylistic editing (sometimes called line editing) entails revising a manuscript to make the prose flow smoothly—that is, ensuring that a text comes across as coherent, confident, intelligent, and even eloquent. This kind of editing is especially relevant to the needs of non-native English speakers, who must make sure their text reads naturally in English as if it were written by a native speaker. Native English speakers also benefit from having an editor’s trained eye comb through their manuscript with a focus on the stylistic qualities to enhance the impression it leaves on readers.
While the tasks involved in copy editing are prescriptive (dealing with errors and omissions), those entailed in stylistic editing are qualitative in nature, a matter of improving a text with better alternatives. Stylistic editing focuses on the language at the sentence and paragraph level to ensure the text has a compelling voice that is appropriate to the author’s aims and the target audience. A stylistic editor does not impose or create a voice but, rather, listens to the author’s voice and revises the text to reflect and refine that voice. In this capacity, the editor serves as an objective mediator between author and readers, polishing the delivery of the author’s message and enhancing the aesthetic experience that readers will have.