For all that a substantive edit does, it is still focused on your use of language to present a well-worked out idea (“content”). Content editing actually helps you formulate and work out the idea itself.
Are your factual statements correct? Are your arguments logically valid and sound? Have you clearly expressed all the inferences and assumptions on which your reasoning is based? Does each of your cited sources really say what you’re suggesting it does, and, taken in its own context, does it really support the point for which you cite it? Are you ignoring or downplaying evidence that is contrary to your argument? Does your introduction, executive summary, or other abstracts accurately reflect the content? These are the types of issues I will identify and resolve.
This is a multi-part process:
First, I begin with a deep, substantive review of your draft or manuscript to evaluate its strengths and weaknesses. I will read it closely – more than once – to spot problems of logic and relevance, unexplained references, unwarranted inferences, tangential arguments/comments, improper appeals to emotion or authority, and anything else that detracts from the persuasiveness of your writing. This is what your professors in college and grad school did with your papers… hopefully.
Second, I will craft specific and detailed solutions for each problem. This is what your professors didn’t do – because as a student, it was your job to do it! But now you’re a grownup and can outsource it to an expert so that you can focus on your own area of expertise. This portion of the task may involve checking your sources and/or independent fact verification (you and I will discuss ahead of time whether and how much verification is needed).
Third, I will highlight my edits for your special attention where I think there is a danger of having inadvertently changed a nuance of your meaning in an effort to clarify. I may be the language expert, but I never forget that YOU are the content expert, and neither should you!
Fourth, I will edit the work substantively, making any changes you instruct me to make.
Fifth, after you have reviewed and approved the revised document, I will copyedit and proofread it.
Like substantive editing, content editing varies greatly from project to project and will be customized to your requirements.