Bring out the best in your writing

Proofreading and editing services for South African authors and businesses

You’ve written a book, academic paper, training programme or corporate brochure – and now you want to publish it. But before you do that, you need to have the text edited. The editor is your first critical reader, and as such they will spot all those places where your text fails to shine in the way you intended it to. There are generally three levels of editing:


This is the lightest level of involvement and is suitable for the final check before the text is published. Proofing consists of a check for superficial errors such as misspelled words, missing punctuation, extra paragraph breaks, incorrect formatting and any other gremlins that might have been missed in a full copy edit. A proofread does not include any text improvements – it is simply a process to catch the last little errors before publishing. The proof edit usually happens on a hard-copy printout of the document or on the final typeset draft. A proofread alone, without any other editing, is only recommended if you are a strong writer and have thoroughly checked your text beforehand.

Copy editing

Copy editing is a more intensive process that involves looking at things like writing style, sentence flow, word repetition and overall structure. An edit can involve some rephrasing of passages and reworking of complex sentences to improve readability  or clarity of argument. After the copy edit, the text is returned to you to approve the changes and to attend to any other notes the editor has made. There might be a bit of going back and forth between you and the editor to get particular passages just right. 

There are generally three levels of copy editing:

Light edit

A light copy edit looks at the usual grammar and punctuation issues and makes relatively minor changes to the text, including occasional rephrasing for clarity. It is suitable for text written by fluent English speakers who are fairly skilled with the written word. The editor will use margin comments for anything that might need the author’s attention and may suggest deletions or additions of material where necessary. A light copy edit does not correct structural issues (logical argument, arrangement of chapters, plot holes, etc) though the editor will insert margin comments if anything looks like it needs more work.   

Medium edit

A medium edit is a bit more hands-on than a light edit and may include more rephrasing and reworking of passages. This level of editing is suitable for second-language speakers or those who feel they want some help with expression and clarity. It includes minor restructuring, for example, moving paragraphs around, changing the heading levels, or suggesting new headings to clarify the content. It also includes more detailed involvement with logical argument and with expression.  

Heavy/Substantial edit

This level is also sometimes called content editing because in addition to text and grammar issues it looks at the content and the meaning of what is written about. The editor looks at the logical argument being expressed or the story being told and assesses whether it all fits together and works as intended. If not, the content editor will rephrase and rework sections of text, and might recommend that the author provide new text to fill in any gaps. This level of editing is suitable for those who want substantial help with the text and a considerable amount of reworking and restructuring. 

Note that although a copy edit will correct typos and other basic errors, some mistakes will still slip through, and some new ones will probably also be created in the editing and approval process. For this reason, it is highly recommended that you also add a final proofread before publishing.

Editing and proofreading costs

The table below gives some general price ranges for my editing in South African rands. The rate depends on factors such as the size of the project, the quality of the writing, and the turnaround time required. Contact me with a sample of your text or any other details you have and I’ll get back to you with a quote. There is a minimum fee of R1800 ($150).

Getting real about the cost of editing

Editing is time-consuming work and a lengthy manuscript can add up to a fair amount. Here are some examples for a light to medium edit (fluent English and capable writing skills) at 30 cents per word:

  • Thesis 30 000 words @30 c/word: R9 000
  • Medium length novel/nonfiction 80 000 words @30 c/word: R24 000
  • Company report 50 pages (approx 15 000 words): R4 500  (This does not include any project management, writing of executive summaries, etc. Assume a higher word rate for that.)

Before enquiring about editing, please make sure you have the budget for it and also make sure your text is ready for editing. If you’ve written a thesis or company document it has probably already been checked by supervisors and it’s OK to go ahead and get a copy edit, but if you’ve written something creative then a copy edit is usually not the first thing you should get when you’ve finished writing. What you need next is feedback from beta readers or a high-level overview edit. If you’ve just finished a novel or work of nonfiction, contact me using the form below and or read about my book appraisal, feedback and coaching service. It can save a lot of money in the long run. Only get a copy edit when at least one other publishing professional has seen the text and said it’s ready for the public eye.   

About your editor

Russel Brownlee has been in the business of writing and editing since way back in the early 90s when he started out as a newswriter for SABC radio. Since then he has worked as a magazine sub-editor and an e-learning technical editor, and now works as a freelance writer, editor and life coach.

His love of writing eventually led him to publish an award-winning novel (Garden of the Plagues), which won the Olive Schreiner Prize for debut fiction and was shortlisted for the Sunday Times Literary Award. More recently he has self-published a nonfiction inspiration book called The Discovery of Causeless Joy, available on Amazon.

The book covers on this page are just some of the books he has either edited, proofed or written.

Get an editing services quote

Russel looks forward to helping you make your novel, thesis or other writing project really shine. Contact him using the form below to get a quote on your editing or proofing job. If you need to send any supporting documents (project specifications, etc) then mail Russel directly:

NOTE: I am currently booked up for July and the first part of August 2020. If you need editing work done immediately you can try the Professional Editors’ Group . They have plenty of well qualified editors who can help you.  

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