Beyond Spelling Errors: Understanding Editing vs. Copy Editing


This article covers the following questions:

  • What is content editing?
  • What is copyediting?
  • What is The Difference Between Editing and Copy Editing?
  • What is the Difference Between Copy Editing and Developmental Editing?
  • What does a copyeditor do?
  • What is the difference between proofreading and copy editing
  • What is the difference between a copy editor and a proofreader?
  • The Art of Editing

Yes. editing is a form of art just like writing is. Why? Because it is not just about grammar and punctuation. Your editor is like your test reader. He wears many hats in order to tie up all of the loose ends of a piece and take it to the next level. 

With his fresh eyes and his unique perspective on content strategy, he tightens things up, from minor wording errors to bigger concepts such as SEO keywords. He is here to optimize not just polish.

You may wonder as a writer: "Aren't all editing strategies the same?" "Aren't editors all here to correct my small errors, make me sound clearer and smarter, and make my copy looks good?" 

Well, in the most basic terms, it is a no.

What is Content Editing?

So, what is content editing? Content editing is more than editing. Not satisfied with this definition? 

Okay… Content editing is essential to ensuring that your piece is effective, digestible, and enjoyable to read. It is also essential for ensuring client satisfaction and performance outcomes. 

It's critical in content marketing to cover all of your bases, and content editing can do just that for whatever you're writing — it ensures that all elements are addressed. 

If a piece requires some extra attention in terms of writing quality, content editors often address those edits first and then do an extra read to address the comprehensiveness of the piece. 

Content editing is an essential part of implementing a successful content marketing strategy.  It helps to reinforce your writing and make it work even stronger and bolder. Also, don't be too concerned if your editor appears to be shredding your work. Take it from us: your content editor is your biggest supporter!

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What is Copy Editing?

Now, what is content editing? Copy editing is a little less than content editing! It is the process of ensuring that content materials are accurate before publication but in tighter terms.

These content materials can include:

  • Blog posts & Articles
  • Web copies
  • Ads
  • Brochures, menus & E-books
  • Newsletters
  • E-mails
  • Academic essays and paperwork
  • And more!

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The editing process in copy editing primarily entails removing mechanical issues and highlighting inconsistencies in the following:

  • Correctness

  • Clarity

  • Comprehensiveness

  • Concision

  • Consistency

Also, read: Polishing Your Work: Tips for Editing Your Dissertation

These are the 5C’s secrets of copy editing!

Copy editing (aka. copyediting) is the process of revising written material (the copy) to improve readability, as well as ensuring that the copy is free of grammatical, spelling, semantical, terminological, punctuation, and formatting errors.

Copy editing also ensures that the writer's intended message is clear and easy to understand, readable. They ensure that any factual data in the text is correct.

What is The Difference Between Editing and Copy Editing?

The goal of content editing is to create comprehensive and productive content that is useful to the reader, optimized for the web, and pleasing to the client.

A content editor assesses the overall structure and quality, the sentences and structures, the intuitive flow of ideas, and adherence to brand voice and style — all while paying close attention to content concepts.

Copy editing, on the other hand, focuses solely on the copy. The fundamentals of spelling, grammar, and punctuation. A copy editor isn't there to question your piece's argument or make higher-level suggestions; it's assumed that the piece's overall structure is already pretty solid.

They'll also look over the piece's design, title, meta, author bio, and other details to ensure everything is in order, but only for typos and mistakes.

What is The Difference Between Editing and Copy Editing? Let’s sum it all up in a summary table, shall we?


Content Editor

Copy Editor

Verifies syntax, grammar, spelling, punctuation, etc.

Audience-focused editing


Edits to improve readability

Edits according to the style guide, the tone, the brand voice, etc.


Verifies the accuracy of the copy, etc.


Provides SEO feedback


Analyzes and evaluates content marketing strategy best practices


Also, read: Perfecting the Art: Qualifications for Professional Proofreader

What Does a Copyeditor Do?

Now that you know what is copy editing and what is the difference between editing and copy editing, it is time to answer the question: “What does a copyeditor do?”

Copy editors will look over a piece of written content to see how it flows and if it is reasonable and fair.  They are expected to investigate structural and organizational issues, but not to solve them.

Copy editors are also known as sub-editors in the magazine and newspaper industries.

First and foremost, they make a quick sweep of the piece to get a feel for it. Copy editors' responsibilities vary, but they usually include some combination of the following:

  • Check if there are glaring, pretty evident errors.

  • Check spelling, grammar, and punctuation while providing alternative wordings for awkward phrasings, inappropriate jargon, cliches, and weak words. 

  • Check sentence consistency and concision.

  • Check if headers are formatted correctly and consistently.

  • Check the length of the text and accommodate it to the appropriate formatting style.

  • Check the text readability (are there large blocks of text that could be broken up with bulleted lists, design elements, and so on?)

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  • Check that the style is all internally consistent and that it adheres to the style guidelines.

  • Check that images and tables are consistent with their descriptions.

  • Boost phrases or sentences that are ambiguous or illogical for absolute readability.

  • Check citations for accuracy.

They do a more focused edit once that's done. Some sections are read a second and a third time to ensure they are correct.

Copy editors are generally expected to make minor changes to smooth out the awkward passages, they do not have the authority to rewrite a text line by line, nor do they prepare material on behalf of an author!

Keep in mind, that a copy editor does not do everything. He doesn’t do the following:

  • Writing

  • Rewriting 

  • Paraphrasing 

  • Ghostwriting

  • Research beyond fact-checking

If your content editors are your best friend, a copy editor is your sibling whom you can rely on to convey the truth about whether or not your words are working.

After the copy editing process is completed, the text will be sent to a proofreader for a final review.