The word “copy” gets bandied about quite a bit, but how do you know when it’s referring to the work you do (or want to do)? You may see “copy” referring to writing and editing. But does that mean you should prepared to be both a copywriter and a copy editor?
The short answer to that is a resounding no. But let’s dig into why, what each of these careers entails, and how you can sort through which job listings apply to copywriters and which apply to another profession entirely.
Copywriting vs. Copy Editing
Here’s 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 holdovers. Copy editing refers to reviewing content (most often, journalistic articles) to review and correct spelling, grammar, and factual accuracy.
Quite simply, copy editing is 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.
Do You Have to Offer Both Copywriting and Editing Services?
Could you do both? Absolutely. But you also do not need to offer your clients both copywriting and editing services. Copywriting and copy editing are very different jobs and require two very different sets of skills.
Acquiring copywriting training doesn’t mean you’re qualified to be a copy editor. And acquiring copy editing training doesn’t mean that someone is qualified to be a copywriter.
As a copywriter, you should absolutely read through your own work. Make sure it’s as free of errors as possible. Inevitably, though, that level of editing is not at the same level as someone trained in copy editing.
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).
It’s also important to note that copyeditors and copywriters have different rates. Copyeditors often have a lower project and hourly rate than copywriters. The skills, while crucial, are a bit more black and white than in copywriting. Copyeditors typically adhere to a client’s style guide and/or their preferred style guide (e.g. Chicago Manual of Style or A.P.).
That said, though, thank goodness both groups exist. Copyeditors and copywriters help ensure that what gets read by our audiences are useful, well written, and true.
Fun fact: Kate began her career as a copy editor. But, as she shares in this episode, it’s truly an entirely different career. In addition to looking into the differences between the two careers, Nicki and Kate dig into whether it makes sense to offer both services and, if you do offer both, considerations you need to make to ensure you’re delivering the best work for your clients.
Are there any other “copy” terms that you’re unclear about? Let us know in the comments below!
Last Updated on September 20, 2023