Stephen King says, “To write is human, to edit is divine.” However, there is more than one kind of editing, and similar terms can get confusing to a novice and even old hands. But for the purpose of this blog post, we’ll be talking about copy editing and content editing. Both these terms often cause confusion with regards to what entails copy editing or content editing.
Both terms are considered interchangeable by a number of people and this adds to the confusion. However, content editing and copy editing are two very different things. Yes, both are editing, but the differences are significant.
Editing is a multi-layered process, and copy editing is often considered the first layer of content editing services. Copy editing ensures that the work produced by content writing does not suffer from technical downfalls in terms of grammar, spelling, and regional variations in language.
Copy editing may seem at face value simple, but it is as important as any other proofreading and editing services. These seemingly simple spelling, grammatical errors, or awkward phrasing reflect poorly on the brand and can have a negative impact on marketing.
What is Copy Editing Really About?
A copy editor, irrespective of what needs to be reviewed, is on the lookout for various issues that can negatively affect the readability of the content and how it reflects a brand’s content marketing strategy.
The copy editor deals with spelling, punctuation, and capitalization errors. On top of all that, they also need to deal with sentence structure in terms of syntax. We’ll delve more into that once we’ve discussed the regional differences in language, which primarily revolves around American English and British English.
One can delve much deeper with regard to regional differences in spelling and vocabulary if the intended audience is hyper-localized. Any good copyeditor doing content editing would keep in mind the content’s target audience.
Additionally, copy editing includes verifying that the content adheres to the organization’s style guidelines or the client has given.
Copy Editing is more than Just Grammar and Spelling
Copy editing is absolutely necessary to navigate the different grammar rules, guidelines, and nuances of language to fine-tune the content. This ensures that the content is sound at a technical level and is readable and understandable by the target audience.
But grammar is not the one-stop solution for readability. For example, consider the following absurd sentence.
“Will Will Smith smith?” And its answer. “Will Smith will smith.”
The above sentence is grammatically correct from a purely technical point of view but is unreadable and difficult to understand. Copy editors will rarely come across such sentences. However, the point is that copy editing requires one to decide between readability and hundred percent adherence to grammar from a technical point of view.
There is a constant shift in language and grammar over different periods, and a good copy editor needs to be on top of these changes. New words enter usage, and once regularly used words fall out of use. In addition, the way content is presented has changed, from magazine articles to blog posts of today. The difference between them both is vast, yet both are grammatically correct.
These changes are most apparent when content comes from web page copywriting, as the realm of digital content is constantly changing and evolving.
So, yeah, a good copy editor ensures that your content is readable, technically sound, and keeping pace with the current content writing styles and trends.
We discussed what entails copy editing, but what else is there to do with content editing? There is so much more that goes into providing complete editing and proofreading services to someone.
Copy editing deals with the building blocks of language and sentence structure, but once that is done, content editing has to deal with the actual meat of the content. Thus, content editing services are also sometimes referred to as substantive editing services.
Content editing includes several components that range from the flow and structure, the accuracy of the content in relation to the brand, and SEO-related issues.
The very first component of content editing is checking the accuracy of the content. The more sophisticated or well-versed your audience is, the more important it becomes to ensure accuracy.
For example, a general article announcing the launch of a new product and meant for general consumers will not have the same stringent requirements. In comparison, an article for some tech with the intended audience from that industry requires a much higher degree of adherence to accuracy.
Accuracy of content is important either way, and it is just that a specific audience can be a lot less forgiving in terms of accuracy. And that makes it difficult to establish brand authority when readers keep commenting on inaccuracies in your content.
Structure and flow were covered under the copy editing section, but there is a difference between how it is handled and within content editing. Copy editing dealt with the syntax of the content. On the other hand, content editing deals with the flow and structure of the content as a whole.
Content editing checks whether the arguments follow a certain progression, does it flow from one section to another, and if the structure is such that it is easy for the intended audience to follow along.
Well-written content incorporates the message so that it flows through the structure in an organic manner without being obvious. Having the right flow means positioning the right arguments and points at the right spot within the structure. How one edits the flow of the content can make all the difference between winning over your audience and driving them away.
The Brand Voice
It is not easy to completely turn off one writing style in favor of another. In addition, different brands have different requirements. Changes in the way content is structured, and word choices can make a world of difference to the brand’s message.
A good content editing service knows the requirements front to back and how they are applicable in different scenarios. Additionally, content editing requires judgment calls because sometimes the guides may prefer may certain style, but the message comes across better in a different manner. For example, active VS passive voice. So, a good content editor knows how to edit the content to best carry the brand (client) identity.
The Needs of the Digital
A large percentage of the content generated today goes for digital consumption. This means that content editing needs to keep the needs of the digital strategies at the forefront. SEO terms play a large role in this because no matter how good the content is, no one will find it unless it is optimized with the right keywords.
The difference between copy editing and content editing is not just in the name. Both types of editing are different but play equally important roles in ensuring that the content is up to a certain standard. Great editing results in the consistent creation of quality content that will win over audiences, are easily discoverable and provide value.