Copy Editing Isn’t One
Size Fits All

20/06/2024



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In the world of marketing agencies, I (Caitlin here!) see a lot of talk about copywriting and almost nothing about copy editing. I’m not exactly sure why this is … but I can imagine for nonwriters the topic is as exciting as watching paint dry. In fact, it’s probably only an interesting topic for people who still remember 1) buying their first dictionary at Bookstop (just me?) or 2) looking things up in the encyclopedia for fun (also just me?). Editing and copy editing are the unseen magic that happen between a first draft and final publication. In this week’s blog, let’s talk about copy editing and help you decide if you could use a copy editor as part of your marketing arsenal.

What’s the Difference Between Copywriting and Editing and Copy editing?

Simply put — copywriting is writing aimed at selling a product or service or educating a consumer on a product or service. General editing is the process of reworking a piece of writing to make it a more compelling story or argument. Copy editing is the process of reviewing a text to check for spelling and grammar, as well as ensuring the information is factual and the writing adheres to any specific style guide(s) the business or organization follows. Copy editing and proofreading largely come at the end of the process.

            | Looking for more? Here are two great explanations on the difference between a copywriter and copy editor and the difference between an editor and copy editor.

If I (Caitlin) were to explain it in layman’s terms, writing is where you get all your ideas out on the page — no matter how bad you think they are or sound. Editing is where the magic happens. Copy editing is where all the nuts and bolts are tightened and you double check that all i’s have been dotted and t’s crossed.

In fact, when I’m editing, I feel like the conductor in this 90s AMC Theatre intro video or Mickey Mouse in The Sorcerer’s Apprentice, ordering words and even paragraphs around on the page to create something that wasn’t quite there before. Like I said, it feels like magic. And yes, I know I am a word nerd.

copy editing is really comparable to orchestrating a voice for a brand

For this copywriter and editor, the work feels like being a conductor or magician.

Who Needs Copy Editing?

I’ve spent ten years copyediting other people’s work (as well as my own) and I can attest to the fact that everyone needs an editor. Anything written for professional purposes could use a second pair of eyes on it, especially if the original writer isn’t a trained writer or editor. So, while the short answer to the question “Who needs copy editing?” is “anyone who writes anything,” let’s dive a little further into different groups that may particularly benefit from a copy editor.

Who needs a copy editor? Anyone writing for professional purposes.

  1. Growing organizations without a full staff

While some organizations may have a graphic designer on staff, copywriters and copy editors are less frequent hires. If you are a growing organization without a full staff, though, you could gain a lot of help from a copy editor you hire out — especially if there’s someone already on your team who writes your content (email marketing, social media, brochures, new website copy, video scripts, and more). An editor and/or copy editor can work with your on-staff writer to make their work as excellent as possible.

  • Large organizations without dedicated staff

While it’s more likely for large organizations to have an in-house creative/communications team, they may not have a dedicated copy editor. Having someone who is double and triple-checking your content for accuracy, tone, style and overall readability, will pay dividends over and over again as you seek to grow your business and expand your influence.

Looking for more explanations of copyediting? The University of Kansas School of Journalism has an excellent description of what all copyediting entails. I especially love this part of their description: “It’s been said that copy editors are the ‘first readers’ as well as the ‘last line of defense’ – they approach a text not from the point of view of the writer, but the reader. They are advocates for the readers; they are ‘quality control’ for the publication.”

Think of copy editing as a final guard for your work and layer of protection for your brand messaging.

Why Do Organizations Need Copy Editing?

There are a few reasons to consider having a copy editor on your team. Here are a few ways they strengthen your communications as well as your ability to connect with your audience.

Ensure best foot forward

Copy editing provides an added layer of professionalism and credibility. A good copy editor pays attention to the smallest of details and comes to the table with an expert knowledge of style guides (AP Style, Chicago Style, your in-house style guide, etc.). They are experts at finding the needle in the haystack and can produce well-written, error-free content that will make your company look and sound the absolute best it can.

Connect with audiences
A great copy editor is someone who will take the time to understand what your vision is for your brand. You want someone who is willing to take in and digest your vision and ethos, so that they can help that shine through with every word. A copy editor that understands all of this will use it to empower their work as they cut, shave and sand down your copy to the best version for audiences to connect with.

SEO rich

A great copywriter can finetune your copy to make sure it really shines online, including SEO elements. We’ve written a lot about SEO in the past (see here and here for starters) and it remains a crucial part of any digital marketing plan. In just a few passes of the text, a copy editor can make an incredible difference in the SEO quality of a piece of writing.

What Makes One Copy Editor Different from Another?

As the title of this blog states, copy editing isn’t one size fits all. Let’s break down some of the differences between copy editors so you know who to look for in your hiring process.

Experience/Area of Work
While all copy editors generally have strong research skills (they’re always fact-checking something or looking up the answer to some random grammar scenario), copy editors may have areas of expertise. Some may be more well-versed in the world of nonprofits while others have worked largely in the medical world. Copy editors who have an established expertise in your type of business may take more naturally to your writing.

Some copy editors have an area of expertise, but all copy editors should have strong research skills and adaptability.

Availability

Like any other team member you hire, you want to make sure a copy editor — especially if you are hiring them as a freelancer or as part of an agency team — has the availability to take on your work. It’s also important to have conversations about how quickly you need/expect to have editing turned around and delivered back to you. Because copy editing and proofreading typically come at the end of any creation process, copy editors are often under tight deadlines. They need to be able to work under pressure and deliver. However, every individual is different, so you’ll want to make sure the person or team you hire can work with your expected deadlines.

Agility

As I mentioned earlier, it’s crucial that a copy editor take the time to understand the

“why” behind the piece of writing they are editing. You want to find an editor that can

move from one writing piece to the next while holding onto your brand’s voice and

values. You also want a copy editor to have great soft skills — teamwork, multitasking

and communication. They need to be both a detailed person and someone who can

kindly communicate their edits to others.

Copyediting at J.O. Agency

Your messaging is too precious to go unchecked — hiring a copy editor can be incredibly beneficial as you communicate with your audience over the long term. Our team of marketing professionals includes writers and editors with years of experience. We’ll help you send just the right message. Reach out to us at hello@joagency.com or 817-335-0100 to start the conversation today.

Looking for more on the topic of communication? Check out our recent blog on effective business communication here.

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