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The Value of Editing & Copy Editing

Editing text on screen

In my last blog I gave a few hints and tips for proofreading. But what about editing and copy editing? Well that's just the same as proofreading isn't it? Well not quite.

People often get proofreading and copy editing mixed up or assume they're essentially the same thing. The problem is that this approach means you are in danger of either lumping it all together and missing out some key considerations needed to ensure your copy or content is the best it can be. And while there is some overlap between proofreading and editing, they're not the same. I imagine at this point you might be thinking 'Who cares as long as it's checked!' Well checking is certainly important but taking the right approach is essential.

I've already outlined the value of proofreading in my last blog titled 'The Importance of Proofreading'. But editing is also an important step. Not recognising the difference that each stage provides prior to publishing can really hamper your efforts to create engaging and tip top copy for your intended audience. Understanding this will help ensure that when you brief in work (either in-house or to a freelancer/agency) you know what to expect back and what you're paying for. Indeed, if you're using an agency or freelancer then the cost of editing and proofreading will vary depending on what you need.

Have a read of my 'Foundations for Good Content' blog. In there you’ll find out how to make sure your final copy or content remains aligned to your proposition, content strategy and brand.

So What’s Editing Anyway?

Think of editing as being more about the flow and style as opposed to error checking. Sure these errors can get picked up as part of that process and there are blurred lines between the two. But, recognising the difference can really help you when producing and finalising your content. There’s absolutely no point in having word perfect spelling if the article is hard to follow, hard to find (on the web), has sections out of order, lacks style or fails to engage your audience.

The Role of Editing.

In traditional media the editing will typically take place at least twice during content production.

To simplify in the context of business and marketing content, after reading the draft copy, the copy editor will look at a range of changes. These include:

  1. Making general changes, this could be in consultation with the writer or by referring back to the in-house style guide(s).

  2. Assessing that the content meets the tone of voice (and amending accordingly if it doesn’t).

  3. Updating the document to improve the content flow (including deleting or reordering the work).

The role and stages of editing do vary from sector to sector. For marketing, sales or other business content, the above approach will almost certainly help the facilitation of changes that will aid the flow of your written work. When this approach is applied across your content and copywriting it will give your work an overall consistent feel to the reader and ensure your brand tone of voice comes to life.

In addition the editor might also:

  • Check the factual accuracy of the work e.g. is the price £49.99 or £45.99?

  • Look for legal problems such as libel or copyright infringements. This could include the brand or logo itself.

After editing, the document is normally ready for a proofread where the attention here can focus more on any obvious errors such as typos and grammar.

Of course, the challenge for anyone with all of this is finding time in the busy schedule to produce or edit the content in-house. A great way to resolve this is to hire a freelance writer and/or editor. Available to work on specific projects these services can really help speed the journey to publication and provide an impartial and critical eye over the work.

So there you have it, a brief overview of editing. The important thing to remember is that whether you want editing, proofreading or both, there is always one golden rule which will help you. Set out clearly and exactly what you want from your 'checking' at the start. This will really help you get exactly what you need from the initial brief. In the long run this will save you both time and money.


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