The publishing industry is filled with hundreds of job titles and services, many of which sound no different than the one before it. To be quite honest, many of the services are similar in nature, and there is some degree of overlap in these areas. The purpose of this article is to explain the differences between copywriting, copyediting, editing, and proofreading, so you can decide which service (or job) is right for you.
A copywriter’s role is to create content. Usually, a copywriter will develop content according to a specific set of parameters, such as creating marketing content for a new product designed to target a specific market segment. Generally, copywriters work specifically in marketing and advertising, but some other publishing companies use this designation for content developers closer to the base of the publishing pyramid. Copywriters also create content like book summaries, author bios, blog posts, and directory information. Basically, a copywriter can be any content developer other than what people traditionally think of as writers (novelists, poets, etc.). As a business owner, you’ll need copywriting when you want content developed from scratch or based on certain specs.
There is a lot of debate in the publishing and grammar circles as to whether this service is written “copy editing,” “copyediting,” or “copy-editing.” Personally, we subscribe to the idea that if copywriter is correct, then so copyediting. This very question is one for a copyeditor to answer. Copyeditors edit for grammar, clarity, tone, voice, and other sentence-level revisions. This is a much more comprehensive service than proofreading, which will be discussed below. You need a copyeditor when you have content and want to make sure it is free from errors, both grammatical and typographical, clear, and concise. You might also want to know if your tone comes off as intended (relatable versus authoritative) or if the level of formality matches your intended audience. These tasks all fall to a copyeditor. Copyeditors can also check (or draft) citations for existing content.
Editing is a very broad category, but generally speaking editing to going to be much more “big picture” than any of the other services. An editor of a novel, for instance, might be tasked with analyzing the relatability of the characters or the pacing of the plot. An editor of a news article is going to be looking to see if the copywriter focused on the most newsworthy aspects and the position from which they presented the issue or people. Questions an editor will ask is whether the content is interesting and engaging, or if it accomplishes the goal of the writer. This can also be called “developmental editing” or “substantive editing.” In general, an editor is going to be looking at the work as a whole and deciding what works and what doesn’t.
Proofreading is essentially “copyediting lite.” While a copyeditor is looking at the entire sentence for best wording, clarity, and other structural issues (as well as typos), a proofreader is just looking for errata. A proofreader is checking for things that are objectively incorrect, such as using “than” when “then” should have been used instead, or simple typos. A proofreader might also check pagination and formatting errors, such as an extra line break. A proofreader should be your last line of defense, so to speak, before your content is published. (Note: Proofreading is still different yet from proofing, which is the process of comparing source documents to the finished product to ensure everything was transferred correctly to the final platform.)
So there is it—the key differences between copywriting, copyediting, editing, and proofreading. If you still aren’t sure which service would best suit your needs, please feel free to contact us.