Editing vs. Copyediting: What‘s the Difference and Why Does it Matter?

As a content creator, you‘ve likely heard the terms "editing" and "copyediting" used interchangeably. However, while they are both critical steps in the writing process, they actually serve distinct purposes. Understanding the difference between editing and copyediting can help you ensure that your content is polished, effective, and ready for publication.

In this comprehensive guide, we‘ll dive into the key differences between editing and copyediting, explore why both are essential, and provide actionable tips for working with editors and copyeditors to take your content to the next level.

Editing: The Big Picture Review

Editing is a high-level process that focuses on the overall structure, content, and effectiveness of a piece of writing. When an editor reviews your work, they are looking at the big picture elements, such as:

  • Organization and structure
  • Clarity and coherence of ideas
  • Tone and style
  • Effectiveness of arguments or messaging
  • Adherence to brand voice and style guidelines

An editor‘s goal is to help you refine and strengthen your writing to better engage and inform your target audience. This process often involves substantial changes and revisions to the content itself.

Types of Changes Made in Editing

Some specific examples of the types of changes an editor might suggest include:

  • Reorganizing sections or paragraphs for better flow and clarity
  • Cutting or condensing content that is repetitive or unnecessary
  • Expanding on key ideas or arguments that need further development
  • Adjusting the tone or style to better align with the target audience or brand voice
  • Providing feedback on the overall effectiveness and impact of the piece

According to a study by the Content Marketing Institute, 85% of the most successful B2B marketers deliver content consistently, and 74% prioritize delivering content quality over quantity. Editing plays a critical role in ensuring that your content meets these high standards of quality and consistency.

Copyediting: The Final Polish

Copyediting, on the other hand, is a more detail-oriented process that focuses on the technical aspects of the writing. A copyeditor‘s job is to ensure that your content is free of errors, consistent in style and formatting, and adheres to industry standards.

Some key things a copyeditor looks for include:

  • Grammar, spelling, and punctuation errors
  • Consistency in style and formatting (e.g., headings, fonts, spacing)
  • Factual accuracy and consistency (e.g., dates, names, statistics)
  • Adherence to specific style guides (e.g., AP, Chicago, MLA)

Copyediting is often the last step before content is published or shared, and it is essential for maintaining the credibility and professionalism of your brand.

The Importance of Style Guides in Copyediting

One of the key tools copyeditors use to ensure consistency and accuracy is a style guide. A style guide is a set of standards and guidelines for writing and formatting content, and it can be specific to an organization or industry.

Some common style guides used in copyediting include:

  • AP Stylebook (commonly used in journalism and media)
  • Chicago Manual of Style (used in book publishing and academia)
  • MLA Handbook (used in academic writing and research)
  • APA Style (used in scientific and scholarly writing)

By adhering to a specific style guide, copyeditors help ensure that your content is consistent and professional, no matter who is writing it or where it is being published.

Copyediting by the Numbers

Investing in professional copyediting can have a significant impact on the quality and performance of your content. Consider these statistics:

  • A study by the Society for Editors and Proofreaders found that 94% of copy-edited documents contained at least one error, with an average of 10 errors per document.
  • According to a survey by the Content Marketing Institute, 51% of B2B marketers outsource at least one content marketing activity, with content creation (including editing) being the most commonly outsourced.
  • In a study of academic research papers, those that underwent professional copyediting had a 34% higher acceptance rate than those that did not.

The Skill Sets of Editors vs. Copyeditors

While there is certainly overlap between the skills required for editing and copyediting, there are also some key differences.

Editors need to have a strong grasp of the big picture, with the ability to assess the overall structure, flow, and effectiveness of a piece of content. They must be able to provide constructive feedback and work collaboratively with writers to refine and improve their work.

Copyeditors, on the other hand, need to have a keen eye for detail and a deep understanding of grammar, punctuation, and style guidelines. They must be able to work efficiently and accurately to catch even the smallest errors and inconsistencies.

Both editors and copyeditors need to have excellent communication skills, as well as a strong understanding of the target audience and brand voice.

How to Work Effectively with Editors and Copyeditors

As a writer, working with editors and copyeditors can be a valuable opportunity to improve your skills and create the best possible content. Here are some tips for making the most of these collaborations:

Communicate Clearly

Before you start working with an editor or copyeditor, make sure you have a clear understanding of their role and what you can expect from the process. Share any relevant background information, brand guidelines, or specific concerns you have about the content.

Be Open to Feedback

Remember that the goal of editing and copyediting is to improve the quality and effectiveness of your content, not to criticize your writing abilities. Be open to the feedback and suggestions provided by your editor or copyeditor, even if it means making substantial changes to your work.

Allow Adequate Time

Editing and copyediting are time-intensive processes, so be sure to build enough time into your content creation workflow to allow for revisions and back-and-forth with your editor or copyeditor. Rushing the process can lead to errors and subpar content.

Use Editing Tools Wisely

There are a variety of editing and proofreading tools available, such as Grammarly, Hemingway, and ProWritingAid. While these tools can be helpful for catching basic errors and improving readability, they are not a replacement for human expertise. Use them as a supplement to, not a substitute for, working with professional editors and copyeditors.

The Future of Editing and Copyediting

As artificial intelligence and automation continue to advance, it‘s natural to wonder how these technologies will impact the editing and copyediting process. While AI-powered tools can certainly help with tasks like grammar and spell-checking, they are not yet able to replicate the nuance and contextual understanding of human editors and copyeditors.

Editing and copyediting require a deep understanding of language, storytelling, and brand voice that goes beyond just following rules and guidelines. Human editors and copyeditors bring a level of creativity, empathy, and critical thinking to the process that is essential for creating high-quality, engaging content.

That said, it‘s likely that AI and automation will play an increasingly important role in the editing and copyediting process in the years to come. As these technologies continue to evolve, they may be able to take on more of the time-consuming, repetitive tasks involved in editing and copyediting, freeing up human professionals to focus on higher-level strategic and creative work.

Key Differences Between Editing and Copyediting

To summarize, here is a table outlining the key differences between editing and copyediting:

Editing Copyediting
Focus on big picture elements (structure, content, tone) Focus on technical details (grammar, spelling, formatting)
Makes substantial changes and revisions to content Makes minor changes and corrections
Ensures clarity, coherence, and effectiveness of messaging Ensures consistency, accuracy, and adherence to style guidelines
Requires strong collaboration and communication skills Requires keen attention to detail and knowledge of style guides
Typically done earlier in the content creation process Typically done as a final step before publication


Editing and copyediting are two essential steps in the content creation process that serve distinct but equally important purposes. By understanding the differences between these two types of review and how to work effectively with editors and copyeditors, you can ensure that your content is polished, effective, and ready to engage and inform your target audience.

Remember, investing in quality editing and copyediting is not just about catching errors and inconsistencies; it‘s about ensuring that your content is the best it can be and that it effectively represents your brand and messaging.

As you create content for your WordPress site or any other platform, make sure to build in time for both editing and copyediting, and don‘t be afraid to seek out the expertise of professional editors and copyeditors to take your content to the next level.

By prioritizing quality and collaborating with skilled professionals, you can create content that not only informs and engages your audience but also sets your brand apart as a leader in your industry.