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Guide to editing and why you need it

Copy-editing replaces confusion with a clear and compelling message. Find out what copy-editing is and why it is important for your business.

When copywriting, it’s easy to make mistakes and overlook your own errors, especially when your focus is on getting the message across to readers. A simple spellcheck or an additional readthrough is never enough to catch every slip-up or produce clear, consistent content. This is where copy-editing comes in.

What is copy-editing?

Copy-editing is the in-depth process of revising text, or copy, for clarity and consistency. This means making sure that the text is free from errors, is fit for purpose and clearly conveys the original message in a consistent tone and style. Copy-editing comes before the proofreading step and is therefore a lot more involved. At this stage, the text will still need a lot of rewriting as well as error-fixing. Copy-editing is associated with the publishing industry, but its usefulness extends far beyond this sector into many different areas. From online articles and blog posts, to advertisements, websites, newsletters, reports and even board games, copy-editing is an essential and necessary tool in ensuring that you deliver your written message clearly.

What does a copy editor do?

Experienced copy editors at Websters have a broad range of skills, including a keen attention to detail and a strong grasp of language and grammar. They know when a hyphen is needed and when an apostrophe isn’t, and think both creatively and analytically throughout the process. Our copy editors can also communicate ideas clearly and effectively, and work flexibly to meet client requirements. Websters’ copy editors know exactly what to look for when reading a document and will notice common errors quickly (think about whether punctuation goes inside or outside of quote marks, for example).

What to look for when copy-editing

Here’s an outline of what our copy editors look for to ensure that copy is the best that it can be.

  • Spelling and grammar: such as typos, incorrect or missing punctuation, word choice and differences in spelling (think of the noun usage, practice vs the verbal usage, practise in UK English).

  • Consistency: capitalisation, terminology, spelling (for example, focused vs focussed) and formatting should be consistent within the text and in line with the type of copy, any style guidelines and the tone of voice that best represents the business.

  • House style: if style guidelines are supplied, we follow these to the letter and refer to them throughout the process.

  • Flow and clarity: rewriting where needed to improve readability and convey key messages clearly.

  • Fact-check: verifying any assertions, spelling of proper nouns and links so that they make sense within the context of the text and don’t mislead readers.

  • Query: if anything is unclear in the source text or guidelines, communication with the client is also an important step in delivering the core message and maintaining the author’s voice.

Why you need a copy editor

We’ve already mentioned how copy-editing can be a valuable tool in communicating your message effectively. But what else makes copy-editing so important?

Copy-editing helps to produce excellent copy, and can be beneficial for marketing and SEO material, which in turn can help boost business presence and sales. But all kinds of businesses and industries benefit from the copy-editing process, beyond just advertisements and online material. It’s a critical step in improving the readability of any text, which makes the content easier to understand – and more appealing.

Clunky writing and grammatical issues can be a distraction and can also appear unprofessional. Furthermore, factual errors cause problems, confusion and a loss of trust. Readers or potential customers want to be confident that you put care and effort into the content you produce, and, by extension, the message you’re conveying. It can be off-putting if text reads awkwardly or is full of mistakes.

Copy editors also help to create cohesion. Adopting a consistent tone and style that reflects the format and messaging of the text is a crucial step in the copy-editing process – and is also critical in producing engaging content that reflects the business itself.

Copy-editing tips and tricks

  • Style guidelines: read and re-read any reference materials. Understanding and adhering to the relevant tone and style is an important step in producing high-quality content that delivers the core messaging. Compiling your own notes is a good, organised approach if there aren’t any materials or guidelines available.

  • Note any inconsistencies: for example, if varying capitalisation is used throughout a document, you can refer to your notes to consider which version is used most frequently, and which makes the most sense.

  • Change your point of view: concentrate on the text in detail, looking for spelling and punctuation errors, and then consider it as a whole. This can help spot any formatting problems, and allows you to see the writing from a new perspective.

  • Take breaks: reading the text again after taking a break is another great way to gain a fresh perspective on it.

  • Read the text aloud: does it make sense? Reading aloud is a useful way of perceiving whether the text is clear and flows naturally.

  • Focus on clarity: making sure any copy clearly communicates the author’s original message is at the core of copy-editing.

Key takeaway

Copy-editing is an extremely valuable tool for all businesses looking to communicate ideas effectively. By eliminating awkward wording and distracting typos, copy-editing replaces confusion with a clear and compelling message. Investing in high-quality copy-editing services strengthens your company's reputation and brand.

To find out more about how Websters can support your business in creating clear, compelling and accurate content, contact us.

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