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Copywriter vs. Copy Editor

copywriter vs copyeditor

Copywriters and copy editors are not the same thing. A person can be a copywriter, but that doesn’t mean they can supply copy editing services. Copywriters create original content, while copy editors edit existing content.

A copy editor can’t necessarily provide copywriting services. In fact, in most cases, copy editors do not have the skills that copywriters have.

One big difference between a copywriter vs copy editor is that a copy editor has to follow a strict set of rules. Usually, copyeditors follow a client's style guide or an industry standard guide such as Associate Press style or the Chicago Manual of Style.

A copywriter has much more relaxed boundaries in which to work. Their writing only needs to adhere to the language in which they’re writing.

As long as the writing is understandable to the ready, the copywriter has done their job.

The other big difference between copywriters and copy editors is that copywriters answer to the client who hired them. Copy editors may also answer to that same client, but their work has to adhere to the industry-accepted standards.

Furthermore, copywriters often need to write to a certain number of words. For instance, if they are writing copy for a magazine advertisement about a luxury automobile, they only have so much room on the page. The more words they write, the smaller the font must be in order to fit.

In the case of a product label, that available space is even smaller. So a copywriter must convey the right message and do so while writing under the constraints of a certain allowable number of words.

What is Copywriting?

Copywriting is the practice of writing copy for online and print media. The goal of copywriting is to entice the reader to be more curious about a product or service.

Copywriters often write descriptive words so that the reader can understand more about what a business does, more about a product that a company sells or more about a service that a company offers.

The primary aim of copywriters is to draw readers in.

Copywriters may assist a company in selling a product or educating a customer on a certain topic via well-written copy.

They could be employed by marketing or online content firms, perhaps coming up with advertising concepts or storyboarding for visual media, or by businesses running social media pages or writing blog articles. The messages that businesses seek to convey are transformed into captivating writing by copywriters.

What is Copy Editing?

Before a piece of copy is published, either online or in print, the published wants to ensure that the copy is free of errors. Errors can be made by copywriters in a variety of forms.

It is the job of a copy editor to find any errors in the copy.

When an error is found, the copy editor may make the correction themselves, usually in a different color so it is more easily seen. Or, the copy editor may send it back to the copywriter for the copywriter to fix the error.

During the copy editing process, errors in spelling, grammar, jargon, punctuation, terminology, semantics, and formatting are checked. The notion that the copywriter wants to convey is made clear and understandable via copy editing.

In addition to checking for grammatical errors, a copy editor may also ensure that any factual information is correct and that any possible legal concerns are disclosed to the publication.

Can You Be Both a Copywriter and a Copy Editor?

Copywriting and copy editing are two very distinct professions that call for two very distinct skill sets. Being trained in copywriting and the written word does not automatically make you competent to work as a copy editor. Additionally, having copy-editing skills does not automatically make someone a competent copywriter.

Part of a copywriter’s job is to submit grammatically-correct content writing. Copywriters should unquestionably review their own writing to check for errors and make sure it has no mistakes. However, that degree of editing often falls short of that of a copy editor with formal training.

Copy editing is a job that requires a deeper level of analysis. Rarely do those who love copywriting also love copy editing, and rarely would someone who enjoys copy editing love copywriting.

What Skills Does a Copy Editor Need?

Copy editors need different skill sets than freelance copywriters. Copy editors use their skills to detect errors in a piece of copy.

They need to be very detail-oriented, and have the ability to read on different levels. That is, they must read for content, style and on a technical level.

The edits that a copy editor makes should not go against the style of the copywriter. It’s important to note that many times, advertising copy, for example, does not adhere to standard language and sentence structure.

For a label on a bottle of shampoo, the copywriter might write, “Sudsy and aromatic.” This is not a sentence, yet it is not a mistake. The copy editor should not come along and change the copy to read, “This shampoo is sudsy and aromatic,” because that chances the style of the copy.

A discerning copy editor must only make edits that align with the style of copy that’s been written.

What Skills do Copywriters Need?

Copywriters also use a skill when writing copy and that is based on their knowledge of the language in which there are writing. Their skills must include an understanding of sentence structure, including which words are verbs, which are nouns, which are adverbs, and so on.

Copywriters need to have a large vocabulary upon which to draw from as they write. They need to express facts and ideas in a variety of ways, and need to have the words in their head to use when they are required.

Creativity is another skill that copywriters need, because they are writing copy that should appeal to the target audience. This often involves a certain amount of creative writing skills. They need to use certain words that are not only accurate, but which depict a feeling, mood or image in the reader.

It’s a fact that copywriting is mostly skill, but there is also a little bit of talent involved. Copywriters can learn their trade, but if they do not have innate writing talent, they may never ascend to be excellent copywriters.

How Does a Copywriter Work?

A content writer generally sets up their own working circumstances, and often work from home. Freelance copywriters begin their work with an understanding of what their client needs. A client may provide a detailed brief of their needs, down to the word count.

In other cases, a client may only say that they need something described, such as a dress that they intend to sell on their website. The specifics of the dress must be mentioned, such as what sizes and colors it’s available in.

Next, the copywriter studies the content writing brief or the product they are meant to write about. Then, the copywriter determines how best to proceed with the copy and writes a rough draft. Before the copy is handed over, the copywriter may go through several drafts to ensure it is well-written and accurate.

How Does a Copy Editor Work?

A copy editor is given a finished piece of copy to edit, either from a copywriter or from a client. The copy editor then studies the brief, so they have an understanding of what the copy is supposed to accomplish. If they don’t read the client brief, they may inadvertently alter the copy so it no longer suits what the client wants.

Then the copy editor sits down with a red pencil or an editing software and reads through the copy. They may pick up an error in the first reading, which they will mark accordingly. Several reads will be necessary in order to pick up every mistake, if there are any.

After that, the copy editor either sends it back to the copywriter for revision, or hands it over to the publisher for publication.

What Tools Does a Copywriter Use?

A copywriter’s best tool is their own experience and vocabulary. As far as actually sitting down to do the work, a copywriter may use a variety of tools, including:

  • paper

  • writing utensil

  • computer software

  • printer

  • thesaurus

  • dictionary

Copywriters often need to do a significant amount of research, which means they also need to use the internet or library facilities, as the case may be.

What Tools Does a Copy Editor Use?

Copy editors use certain tools specific to their job, as well. These may include:

  • red markup pen or pencil

  • computer software

  • reference manuals

  • stylesheets

  • style manuals

Copy editors often need to do fact checking, so they may also need research skills to do online research or in local libraries, depending upon the project.

Do Copywriters Need Copy Editors?

There is a school of thought that says every copywriter needs a professional copy editor. The reasoning behind this is that copywriters—even experienced ones—will make mistakes. However, it does not hold true that all copywriters need copy editors, even though there's probably no such thing as a perfect web copywriter.

Experienced copywriters have honed their writing skills to an advanced level, where the likelihood of a grammatical error is very slim. At the same time, typographical mistakes do sometimes occur.

Typographical mistakes, often called typos, occur most often in modern day due to the auto-correct feature built-in to most writing software. This feature, while useful, often introduces typos that the copywriter would not have made if auto-correct had not been turned on.

A high quality copywriter, however, will read through their copy multiple times to ensure it is error-free before submitting it to the publisher.

For most publishers, hiring a copywriter or freelance writers is sufficient and they don’t need to also hire a copy editor. However, if the publisher needs to ensure that a longer piece of copy is error-free, it never hurts to have a second set of eyes on the piece to see if improvements can be made. After all, it is the goal of all stakeholders to have a piece of copy that is the best that it can be.

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