The word “copy” gets bandied about quite a bit, but how do you know when it’s referring to what you do? Should you be prepared to be both a copywriter and a copy editor? It’s time to find out the difference between the two. Read on…
Today’s question is from Raphael F., who asks, “I see job listings for both copywriters and copy editors. Is that the same thing? Or similar? Should I be applying for both?”
Before I answer this question, a little history: It used to be that the word “copy” pretty much applied to the written word across the board.
Nora Ephron told a story about sitting by her mother’s deathbed and her mother offering up the advice that “Everything is copy.” Ephron’s mother wasn’t suggesting that her death was great fodder for advertising messages; she was saying that it could be useful for writing great stories/screenplays/what have you.
Copy editing is one of those hold overs. Copy editing refers to reviewing content (most often, journalistic articles) to review and correct spelling, grammar, and factual accuracy.
Copy editing is, quite simply, very detail-oriented. Great copy editors are sticklers on the very finest points of the language and go through every article they review with a fine-tooth comb.
Copywriting, though, is something that is totally different. As you already know, copywriting is writing that is used to sell or persuade. That may mean that copywriting is used to literally sell a product, but it might also be used to “sell” consumers on thinking a different way about something or “sell” them on taking an action.
Copywriting is about connecting people that have a need with the solution to that need by conveying that solution in ways that the audience understands and appreciates.
Copywriting and copy editing are very different jobs and require two very different sets of skills. Could you do both? Absolutely. But acquiring copywriting training doesn’t mean you’re qualified to be a copy editor, just as acquiring copy editing training doesn’t mean that someone is qualified to be a copywriter.
Copy editing, if you ask me, is both a crucial job and a demanding one. It’s not often that people who deeply enjoy copywriting will also deeply enjoy copy editing (and vice versa). That said, though, thank goodness both groups exist—we all help ensure that what gets read by our audiences are useful, well written, and true.
Your turn! Are there any other “copy” terms that you’re unclear about? Let us know in the comments below!