Content Editing vs Copy Editing vs Proofreading

Everything you need to know about editing and proofreading.

Everything you need to know about editing and proofreading

Whether you’re hiring a copywriter or searching for a freelance editor, you want to know what their services cover.

But also, how do you know when you need a web content editing service, copy editing service, or proofreading service?

To be honest, it can be pretty confusing since, on the surface, they seem to be the same thing. In fact, content editing, copy editing and proofreading identify and address different issues with your text.

Let’s take a look at each service in greater detail.

What is content editing?

Content editing focuses on improving the quality of a piece of writing.

What exactly does that mean? Well, the goal is ensuring that a message is effectively communicated. That means making changes to the content, so that the text makes sense, is properly organized, and flows harmoniously.

Here’s what content editing normally includes.

Correcting structure and flow

  • Remove or rewrite portions of the text (as necessary)
  • Reorganize or restructure the text
    • Text should have a logical flow
    • One paragraph leads into another seamlessly
  • Ensure readability

Maintaining brand voice and tone

Search engine optimization (SEO)

  • Edit / add relevant keywords
  • Format text to make it more search-friendly

Fact-checking (optional)

  • Check that information is accurate

Note that this isn’t always included in a copywriter’s content editing service.

In short, think of content editing as the process of refining a text for publication.

What is copy editing?

Copy editing focuses on the technical aspects of a text. That is, the issues and language at the heart of a piece of writing.

The goal is to make sure text doesn’t look or sound awkward and that there aren’t any embarrassing mistakes that would reflect poorly on the brand.

That means copy editing involves:

  • Checking grammar and spelling, punctuation, capitalization
  • Proper Syntax (sentence structure)
  • Consistent language use (e.g. American English vs British English)
  • Language clarity including changing expressions and removing jargon

What does a proofreader do?

Unlike editors, proofreaders do not make or suggest any major changes to the content.

This is because proofreading takes place after editing (where all of that should have already been sorted) and is the final step before publication.

Instead, proofreaders scrutinize text in exacting detail—with an eagle eye—to make sure the material is free of grammatical, typographical, or other minor errors, so that a text is ready for publishing.

(Imagine the nightmare (and cost) of spotting an errant comma or ridiculous typo on the back panel of 10,000 newly-delivered cereal boxes!)

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Editing vs proofreading: How to choose what you need

Ideally, your work should go through both the editing and proofreading process. The reality on the ground though is that, that’s not always possible—especially if you’re a solopreneur or small business.

Sometimes you simply don’t have enough time. Other times, hiring an editor and a proofreader is just too expensive.

So how do you choose between editing and proofreading? Here’s the simplest way to determine whether you need an editing or proofreading service.

  • If you are happy with the quality and content of your text → proofread
  • If you feel that your writing can still be improved → edit
  • On the other hand, if you’re struggling to write sales and marketing text → work with a copywriter