The writer-editor relationship can undoubtedly be a tricky one. That said, it’s a necessary alliance, as every copywriter needs an editor to produce professional content that really sparkles!
This article will explore the role of the editor. It will also look at how, when copywriters and editors unite, the result is super-effective content that justifies some potential feather-ruffling along the way!
So, what are editors and what do they do?
1) Editors look at the big picture:
An editor’s role is to take a step back and examine the ‘big picture’ for any piece of writing. Before jumping in, the editor will familiarise themselves with the writer’s brief, any reference material relating to the piece and the style guide (if one exists).
They will then read the piece through as many times as needed, assessing the work using various criteria, including:
- Has the writer adhered to their brief?
- Does the text use the correct tone of voice (TOV)? (This might be specified in the brief, or the writer may have to refer to existing content, e.g. a company’s website, and replicate the TOV.)
- Is the text of an appropriate length?
- Is the text written in a logical way, with a nice flow?
- Can the reader navigate the text easily? (This can be improved through the use of devices like sub-headings and diagrams, for example.)
- Is the information presented in the best order (e.g. do any paragraphs/sections need to be repositioned/removed)?
- Does the text meet readability criteria; is it optimised (if being used online)?
If the text has significant issues and falls at the first hurdle, or if the overall quality of writing lands short of what you’d expect from a pro copywriter, the editor will send the piece back to the writer. The author will then carry out any required rewrites/amends and re-submit to the editor until they’re happy with the text.
Whilst every copywriter needs an editor to ensure quality content, it is not an editor’s job to substantially rework a piece that a writer has been tasked to deliver to a certain standard. So, if it doesn’t make the grade, send it back!
2) Editors examine the finer detail:
If there are no significant issues with the big picture checks, the editor may then carry out a series of additional checks to examine the finer detail. These might include:
- picking up inconsistencies in TOV/style
- checking the text against a style guide
- ‘fact-checking’; this involves verifying that any factual information in the text is accurate and up-to-date – particularly important in areas such as travel writing!
- looking for repetition of words or ideas in the text
- spotting spelling, grammar and punctuation issues
- cutting any unnecessary “fluff”, e.g. flowery language, clichés or embellishments that don’t serve a purpose
Once a text has successfully passed its big picture and finer detail checks, it’s ready for review by the client. At this stage, any client feedback can be incorporated and the editor will refine and re-check the text.
What about proofreading? Where does it fit in?
The checking process doesn’t stop when the client signs the text off; this is where proofreading comes in.
Unlike editors, proofreaders don’t typically assess the overall structure of a piece or check whether it adheres to the original brief.
Instead, their role is to spot any formatting/layout errors, final typos, and grammar and punctuation mistakes that have slipped through the net or have been introduced in the final design/upload stages.
If the text is for print, a proofread (or, in reality, a few rounds of proofreading) is absolutely vital once the designer has laid the text out with any images in place.
Similarly, digital products should receive a proofread after upload, as formatting errors, for example, may well creep in at this stage.
The proofread should be done by a different person to the initial editor to get a ‘fresh pair of eyes’ on the text. Ultimately, the more eyes the better, as a second (or third) person may home in on something that the first didn’t spot!
The proofing/amends process goes through as many cycles as needed until your content is as clean as a whistle and fit to go live!
Why does every copywriter need an editor?
Using an editor will improve your content – FACT. Every copywriter needs an editor and will benefit from someone looking at their work with a detached eye. This applies to even the most accomplished wordsmiths!
Writing and editing require different skills. Not all writers make good editors, and vice versa.
A copywriter’s role is to write a piece of content, not to fine-tooth comb it for dodgy punctuation. Writers need the creative headspace to get on and write. If trying to wear two hats and fulfil writer and editor roles simultaneously, their work will suffer from both sides.
And, despite the scope for editor/writer relations to become a little fraught, by communicating and working as a team they needn’t be frenemies!
Last but not least, it’s the end-user that benefits most from this professional partnership. Today’s consumers are short on time and high in expectations; they don’t want to see shoddy copy full of typos and misinformation – they’ll simply direct their attention elsewhere.
So, build an editing stage into your content workflow today, and sit back and see how your content sparkles!