A line edit typically occurs between developmental editing and copyediting, and it’s a sort of transition between making large structural changes and perfecting the mechanics of the language. Not every manuscript needs a line edit, but a line edit would likely enhance most manuscripts because its primary focus is not on perfecting the language but on elevating it.
As the publishing industry evolves, media and publishing independents have witnessed the dissolution of the full-time copy editor. Among magazine, news media, and book publishing entities, an in-house copy chief is often considered a luxury of days gone by. The expense of the full-time position is often too difficult to justify, and the responsibility of clean copy can fall on in-house production teams.
Opinions are like . . . you know: everybody’s got one. House editing style guides and preferences are no different. Browse through any random collection of imprint house publications, periodicals, or online articles, and you’ll witness a menagerie of guides, including The Chicago Manual of Style (CMOS), the Associated Press Stylebook(AP), and a smattering of personal preferences seemingly chosen at random. The resulting style format can resemble an amalgamation of spare parts—something akin to a Frankenstein’s monster of house style. The curious aspect is the specific, obscure details individual editors decide to take a stand on—the hills upon which they choose to fight and die.
Given that there is overlap between the different stages of editing, and the fact that some smaller presses forgo line editing altogether, why should we even care about it? It’s a legitimate question. I think the line edit holds an important place in the publishing process, even if it doesn’t get the benefit of being a distinct procedure.