Copyediting, copywriting, proofreading – aren’t they all the same thing?Copyediting

No, they’re not. Generally, a copywriter will create content, which could then be copyedited and, finally, proofread.

So, what does the copyeditor do if the copywriter writes and the proofreader does a final sanity check for grammar and typos?

In the simplest terms possible, copyediting is all about making a piece of writing the best it can be. That means they correct spelling, grammar and punctuation. Refine language and make it clearer and more engaging. They fix factual mistakes and inconsistencies within the copy.

The questions copyeditors ask

What is the main idea, and is it expressed concisely?

Writers have a tendency for hyperbole, so the copyeditor is there to make sure the copy isn’t overly complex or full of jargon and empty phrases. Any found will be replaced with shorter, punchier words to make sure the idea comes across clearly and concisely.

Are any of the words superfluous?

This was mentioned in the point above. It’s very easy to use 20 words when you only need five to get your point across. The copyeditor will read through the content to identify any irrelevant or unnecessary material. Once removed, the ideas come across sharper and have more impact.

Is the introduction inspiring?

The opening of any piece of writing must grab the reader’s attention and draw them into the rest of the content. The copyeditor will review this for impact and improve it to make it interesting and intriguing enough to make the reader want to find out more.

What about the flow?

Every piece of content needs a beginning, middle and end. The copyeditor will ensure the content follows a logical path, with one idea flowing into the next without any jarring. The ideas it conveys should flow effortlessly from one to the next. No one wants to try and navigate their way through a chaotic splurge.

Is the tone of voice consistent?

The content must look and read as though one person wrote it. That might sound a bit odd, but when it comes to annual reports (or reports of any nature), they often have more than one contributor. The copyeditor’s job is to make sure the voice and style are consistent throughout.

How does it end?

Does it go out with a bang or a whimper? Just as the beginning is important, so is the end. You want the reader to finish thinking, ‘wow.’ It’s easy to run out of steam as you near the end of a piece of content. That’s why the copyeditor will review the ending and make sure it has as much impact as the beginning.

Do you have to be an industry-specific copyeditor?

I am going to stick my neck out here and say no.

First and foremost, I am a copywriter. However, an increasing amount of my work is in copyediting. You see, being a copywriter, I understand what it takes to write compelling copy. That’s why my editing services are in demand.

I use my experience and expertise to take someone else’s copy and turn it into something interesting, consistent and on topic.

Just as with content creation, I don’t need to be an expert in the area being written about. Yes, I’ll fact check either through my research or by referring back to the client. The tone is refined to make sure it fits squarely within the brand. And this is done in the same way whether the content is a report, white paper, article, or other publication (e.g., a book).

Does your content need copyediting?

If you are creating content that has input from several people that’s for the consumption of others (e.g., stakeholders, investors, the public etc.), then the answer is yes. Your business must be seen in the best possible light, and that means presenting content that’s consistent, informative and powerful.

Poor content will slap your reputation in the face. If you want to be taken seriously, take your content seriously, and I’ll help you do that (other copyeditors are available, but I’m great fun to work with – and very good).

Sally Ormond, copywriter and copyeditor extraordinaire.