Copy-editing and Content Editing

What's the difference?

 

Copy-editing is about checking the details and general structure.  It can be done on text of any length or subject, and a copy editor will usually check the language, accuracy and formatting of your text.  This process is usually carried out on completed texts, and it's about making sure that the nuts and bolts of your work are sturdy enough to hold the piece together and carry it safely into the world.

 

Some copy editors will also proofread texts as part of their service, but not all.  Therefore, if that's a service you definitely need, be sure to ask whether or not it's included.

 

Content editing is all about the development of your work and its overall design.

Content editing is usually reserved for larger bodies of text, e.g. manuscripts for stories, where creative and/or structural input is required for developmental purposes.  This process is all about the creative fine-tuning and enhancement of your work. Typically, this process involves the author and content editor working quite closely.

 

A content editor will assess the style and readability of your content either as you're developing it (to help you find and stay on the right track) or once it's complete (to review and improve it wherever necessary).  They may make suggestions for new text, which they may offer to write.  Also, they may advise the author to remove existing sections of text or to reorganise areas of text if they feel that it would improve the work.

 

Can one editor complete both tasks?

 

In short, yes.  However, not every editor offers both services. Some editors prefer to focus on one area and others may not feel confident enough to offer both.

 

If both content editing and copy-editing are needed, the content editing should be done before the copy-editing, as the copy-editing is more of a final check that all is as it should be.

 

For any writer, it's always advisable to have large or very important bodies of text checked by a proofreader or copy editor.  It can make the world of difference to your finished piece and the subsequent success or failure of it; if people can't understand what you're trying to say, how can they fully engage with it?

 

If it's your first time working with an editor and you're reluctant to expose your work to another and worried about how they might perceive it, just remember that your editor is only human and that you needn't fear their comments.  They are there to help you to make the best of your work, not to judge you.

 

Don't commit to working with someone right away if you're worried.  Take your time and find someone that you feel comfortable with.  Then, communicate honestly and respectfully about everything, including any worries that you might have, and everything should work out just fine. 

 

If you're a novelist, it would be wise (and more affordable) to accept the good will of family, friends and fellow writers for feedback in the first stages of development. 

 

However, it could make a real difference to have a content editor go over your work with you when it's really starting to take shape. Doing so should ensure that you keep moving forward on the right creative track and avoid taking a wrong turn. 

 

Also, having a copy editor go through it with a fine tooth comb at the end will give it the final polish it needs to sit proudly on the shelves of any bookshop.  Of course, you could have the editing done in stages and pay in instalments, e.g. chapter by chapter, in order to make the costs more manageable.

 

Professional help costs money, but that doesn't mean you can't afford it.  Unless you have a personal connection with a professional editor who's happy to do it for free, you'll have to pay if you want to get your work professionally checked; there's no two ways about it. 

 

This is one of those things that always gets in the way of writers seeking the help they need, and it is completely understandable.  However, a little planning ahead could make all the difference.  For example, you could start saving a small amount of money every week -- just what you can afford to spare, however little that is -- while you work on your text.  Then, by the end, you'll have a little stash of cash to put towards the cost of a proofread.  Depending on how much you save each week and how long it takes for you to finish your work, you may even have enough to cover the whole cost of a proofread. 

 

You see, it's about being optimistic rather than defeatist, and it's about thinking outside the box.  Money is a difficult subject for many people, but if you're disciplined and manage it well, it doesn't have to be an insurmountable obstacle to your goals.  

 

An investment in your work is, ultimately, an investment in your future.  Only you can decide whether or not that's worth the effort.

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