Editing Time Frame

“How long does it take to edit a manuscript?” This is a difficult question to answer with an infallible measure of accuracy.

To start, the average reader can read about 155 to 213 words of prose per minute1. Based on the second pass of a Moderate edit, a veteran Editor can take up to 100 hours to edit 100,000 words2. This comes down to about 17 words per minute. The third pass is a little faster at an average rate of 84 words per minute by the same veteran Editor2.

Keep in mind that this time frame is an ideal condition. Other variables that can add to the time frame are the complexity of the text, tables, cross-references, notes, citations, reference lists, bibliographies, and captions for illustrations.

Under ideal conditions I am able to edit, on average, about ten words per minute during my second editing pass of a Moderate level edit. If I work for about five to eight hours a day for five days a week on a 100,000 word manuscript, the second pass could conceivably take about two to three weeks.

This is the roughest of estimates for the time involved in editing. I will be able to give a better estimate of time once I’ve seen the full manuscript. That estimate will be in the contract.

1. Trauzettel-Klosinski S, Dietz K; IReST Study Group. Standardized assessment of reading performance: the New International Reading Speed Texts IReST. Investigative Ophthalmology & Visual Science. 2012 Aug 13; 53(9): 5452-61. doi: 10.1167/iovs.11-8284. PMID: 22661485.

2. The University of Chicago. The Chicago Manual of Style. 17th ed., Chicago, IL, The University of Chicago, 2017.