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What is Copy Editing? (Guide for Authors and Content Writers)

  • Andrew FolklerAndrew Folkler

Even the best writers make mistakes. 

Whether you are a copywriting professional or an entrepreneur, you know that your copywriting is critical to branding. However, sometimes the smallest typo can stick out like a sore thumb.

Your reader might see it and think to themselves, “Well, if they missed this small typo, will they make a mistake when I buy their product?”

This is where copy editing steps in. 

Copy editing is another step in your copywriting process that protects you from accidentally publishing typos and syntax errors.

After all, you want to deliver your best to your target audience. And if perfect grammar and syntax can bring a sense of security and trust, then it is worth the extra effort. 

This article will cover all elements of copy editing so you can implement these practices into your writing process today. 

Let’s jump right in!

What is Copy Editing?

Copy editing is the practice of editing copy to ensure that it is free of grammatical, syntax, and spelling errors. Copy editors also revise the copy for stylistic inconsistencies, factual accuracy, and content that violates brand guidelines. All of these duties combined make copy editing such a valuable practice. 

What Does a Copy Editor Do?

Copy editors go through a rigorous process of reviewing copywriting to ensure it is up to a high standard before publication. 

Here are the main priorities of a copy editor.

Line Editing: One of the core responsibilities in copyediting is ensuring that the copy’s grammar, spelling, and syntax are pristine. Small typos can distract your reader and even result in a loss of trust. 

Technical Consistency: Your copy might be written in a specific format to cater to the needs of your target audience. For example, consider American vs. British English. Whichever you choose, your content must be consistent to ensure your audience isn’t distracted from your core message. 

Brand Consistency: Besides technical consistency, you must maintain consistency with brand guidelines. This can be especially important if you work with freelancers, as a mixed brand voice appears less trustworthy. 

Fact-Checking: You want to appear trustworthy and an expert in your niche. Copyeditors peruse copy to ensure that reputable sources cite factual statements and data correctly. Typically sources are cited in APA or Chicago style.

Ensures Flow of Copy: A copy editor will also zoom out and examine the flow of the copy. If there are any clunky sections, they will add and remove sentences as needed to ensure flow. 

SEO Copy Editing: A copy editor trained in SEO optimization can review content such as blog posts and optimize the keywords to improve search rankings.

Checks for Potential Legal Liability: Copy editing protects you from legal risks in addition to factual accuracy. For example, CAN-SPAM and GDPR are legal restrictions within email marketing. Violation of these laws can lead to devastating consequences and fines. Therefore, copy editors need to ensure that all copy is legally compliant. 

Updates Content: Sometimes, a copy editor will revise old content to reflect the current findings today. Not only will this improve the SEO of the content, but it will also ensure that the content is still relevant and factually accurate. 

When Do You Need a Copy Editor?

Copy editing is crucial to maintaining authority and professionalism. Therefore, bringing a copy editor to your team is advisable to minimize errors and inconsistencies. 

If your business has an ongoing content market strategy, having a copy editor can help ensure that all content is consistent before it is published across all channels. This is especially important if you have freelance copywriters and content writers who are not well-versed in your brand. 

If your marketing team is in-house, you can instead train your content and copy team in copy editing so that your marketing team can deliver high-quality content.

If you are a copywriting professional, adding copyediting to your skillset can be instrumental in improving your quality of work and your value as a freelancer. 

According to the Editorial Freelancers Association, copyediting professionals charge between $36-$50/hour, depending on the subject matter. For larger projects such as copy editing books, these rates can reach up to $2500 for a 300-page book. 

Copy editing may seem costly for newer businesses and startups. However, the lack of authority and brand consistency is an alternative cost. A skilled copy editor can edit your content to align with your values, which can help boost your content to your audience. 

Copy Editing vs. Proofreading: What’s the Difference?

Copy editing and proofreading have several overlaps. However, their purpose is different. 

A copyeditor’s primary purpose is to ensure the content matches the brand values and standards so that the target audience will be receptive to the content. A proofreader’s job is to conduct a final review to ensure that all mechanical errors are accounted for. 

The copyeditor ensures the content flows smoothly, while the proofreader provides the final polish. 

A proofreader will not concern themselves with the stylistic elements of the content. Reviewing the content, they look for any grammatical errors and syntactical discrepancies that the copy editor might have missed. 

Remember, your copy editor is human too! (Unless you are using AI copywriting tools.)

Include Copy Editing in Your Content Strategy Today

Whether you post social media copywriting, blogs, or direct response copywriting, copy editing can help you take your written material to the next level. 

Copy editing is a valuable skill often overlooked due to the rise of grammar checkers and word processing software. However, even with all these programs, you still need to check for grammatical errors!

Sometimes it is easy to miss these typos when you are too close to the project. That is why a copy editor can help you by being a fresh pair of eyes and conducting a thorough review. If you need to do your own copy editing, it is best to give your mind several days away from the content before you begin editing.

Like all copywriting skills, copy editing is an invaluable skill to include in your arsenal. So start building your copy editing skills today and continue delivering quality content to your audience! 

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