Peter Elbow, in his book Writing Without Teachers, describes editing as a constructive, generative act, wherein the writer, by trimming and re-measuring, actually figures out what he or she really wants to say.
This is my approach to substantive editing: cut away the fat to get to the bone.
In substantive editing, I work on improving clarity and flow by eliminating wordiness, redundancy, clichés, and inappropriate word choices. I also replace passive constructions with active ones, smooth out transitions, rephrase awkward passages, and, if needed, move around sentences and paragraphs.
Because this is a more extensive process, the text must be submitted in an editable electronic format (.docx, .rtf, .txt, or something that can be imported into Word 2016). If you have a paper document that requires substantive editing, I suggest getting it typed up first.
Note on Academic Papers: Because the best learning is the learning you do on your own, don't send me course papers and exams for substantive editing. If you're turning it in for an academic grade, I will give it a plain-vanilla edit as well as make suggestions for substantive changes, but I won’t rewrite the paper’s content.