July 14th, 2020

Copywriting vs. Copy Editing

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Written by Copycat Copywriters

Copywriting vs. Copy Editing

As a business owner, you know that creative, well-written web content is essential for your long-term success. From web copy to social captions to your newsletter and beyond, authentic, engaging content helps your target audience connect with your product on an emotional level.

But when you’re looking for a professional to help you develop website copy, who do you need to hire—a copywriter or a copy editor?

The short answer is, it depends. 

The long answer? Most copy goes through two steps in its creation: copywriting and copy editing. In some cases, the same person can take both steps, but in others, having one without the other will lead to marketing mishaps:

  • A virtuoso copywriter comes with creative taglines and unique hooks that draw readers in. But without the support of the copy editor, they might make small mistakes, fail to optimize for SEO, or turn in a piece with other issues.

  • If you hire the best copy editor in the world, but you don’t have any copy for them to actually start editing, you’ll just be paying them to twiddle their thumbs.

This is your guide to understanding how to best meet your business’ web copy needs.

Copywriting and Copy Editing, Explained

In order to determine your business’ needs, it’s important to understand the difference between copy editing and copywriting for a website. Let’s define these two roles:

  • Copywriters create original content in line with your brand’s unique voice. Whether you’re a start-up founded on groundbreaking scientific research or a wellness brand with a sharp visual aesthetic, a good copywriter creates the content that connects with your target audience on any and all relevant channels. 

  • Copy editors look at existing content with an eye towards taking it to the next level. Copy editors work across all genres of writing, helping everyone from J. K. Rowling to your copywriter produce their best work.

Confused? 

Let’s introduce a helpful metaphor for an editor vs. copywriter Have you ever watched a culinary TV show like Top Chef ? If so, you know that the final step before a plate goes out can make all the difference. A dish of potatoes, steak, arugula, and sauce can look like something from an elementary school cafeteria—or, with the right intervention, it can look like art.

  • Think of your copywriter as the cook. They gather the ingredients for a meal and make sure the individual elements fit together to create something tasty and wonderful. 

  • Then, your copy editor is the executive chef who reviews the plate before it goes out to the table, making sure it looks as good as it tastes. It’s their job to identify if the steak is undercooked or the whole thing needs to go back to the kitchen. But maybe all it needs is a little extra salt or a fun garnish. Either way, they need to oversee quality, no matter which cook is on the line.

Some copywriting services like Copycat Copywriters provide both copywriting and copyediting, all in one place. But is it possible you need only one or the other? Let’s take a deeper dive into what professionals in each of these fields can and can’t do.

A Copywriter’s Job Description

A copywriter’s main role is to develop written content. You may get your copywriter started with little more than your brand guidelines, an assignment, and a “good luck!” However, if you have a more developed outline for a particular white paper or blog post, they should be able to follow it (or explain why it needs some tweaking).

Copywriters must excel at structuring ideas for website copy, and at expressing those ideas in clear prose. They should be able to pick up on your brand’s voice, either from samples of past web copy, or from your brand guidelines. Finally, they should be skilled in conducting research to provide credible support for their articles.

With these skills, they’re able to create any and all of the following kinds of content writing:

  • Web copy
  • Blog posts
  • Social media captions
  • Newsletters
  • Whitepapers
  • Promotional eBooks

It may sound like a copywriter can do it all—but most have their limits. Your copywriter may need support in the following areas:

  • Style There are many reasons why a piece of copy might be just a tiny bit off. When a content writer gets very close to their own copy, it can be hard to see errors in logic, spelling, or tone. There’s a reason why professional novelists and copywriters alike use editors: a second set of eyes can usually catch and fix any small issues that make a piece less-than-perfect.

  • Purpose While style is key to making copy sparkle, it also needs to result in conversions. However, your copywriter is not necessarily a one-person marketing team. They need support to make sure the piece has a good spread of SEO keywords, the right internal linking, and everything else it needs to achieve a positive ROI.

A Copy Editor’s Job Description

First things first: a copy editor is, by definition, not a copywriter. They do not create the raw content for your company. Instead, it’s their job to step in and elevate a piece of copy to the desired outcome. 

Where copywriters are creative researchers, copy editors are professionals with a sharp focus and deep knowledge of what makes copy work. A copy editor does all of the following:

  • Makes sure written content adheres to brand guidelines
  • Edits for greater consistency with existing web copy
  • Varies word choice
  • Strives for conciseness
  • Rewrites sentences for clarity as-needed
  • Reorganize some sections for flow as-needed
  • SEO Optimize the copy

Like that executive chef, your copy editor does everything in their power to make sure the final product is perfectly executed once they have their hands on the raw materials.

Getting Ready to Hire

As you can see, it’s often important to have both a copywriter and a copy editor. Does this apply to your company? Let’s take a look at some scenarios.

  • You’re a retailer looking for someone to help you create brand-new content for your blog. You have a few ideas of post titles, and your content marketing partners have come up with some SEO keywords, but frankly, you have limited interest in writing 2000 words about “How to mix patterns” or “The most breathable fabrics for summer,” and neither does anyone else at your company.

  • You’re a tech CEO and a thought leader in your industry. You have great ideas, and a few paragraphs of writing, but you know you need some help turning your ideas into finished web copy.

In situations like these, you need a copywriter and a copy editor. It’s great if you have some notes towards your copy, and even a few paragraphs—but unless you are a copywriter, you probably need to hire a content writer who can add to your notes. Then, you’ll need a copyeditor to double-check their work for style, consistency with brand guidelines, and that they marked all the boxes on the prompt.

There are, however, some situations where you might only need one or the other.

  • You already have a regular copywriter, whether they’re an intern or a trusted freelancer who understands exactly what you’re looking for in terms of research, tone, and writing. You just need someone else to go over their work with a second set of eyes. In this case, you only need a copy editor.

  • You yourself are a professional writer or editor with excellent editing skills. You don’t have time to write web copy right now—all you need is someone to create the raw material for you to work your magic on. In this case, you only need a copywriter.

However, be careful who you hire. Sometimes, working with a trusted copywriting company that provides both services is better than working with a freelancer. After all, if you don’t find a copywriter or copy editor with the right expertise, you may find yourself going back to the drawing board. 

For example, what happens if you hire an inadequate copywriter? Maybe you were trying to save a little money, or maybe you tried out a friend of a friend. Either way, you have the raw research and content for your article, but it needs a lot of work. While some copy editors may be able to take on a rewrite, others would consider this outside the scope of their work and ask you to take a pass at it first. 

Then, you’ll need a new writer and a new editor.

Make sure you fully understand your company’s needs, and once you’ve found the perfect web copywriter, get clear on what they do and don’t do.

Copycat Copywriters

Are you looking for a one-stop copywriting shop? Copycat Copywriters develops a team for your company based on your specific needs. Whether your next step is an occasional blog post or a huge web copy push, we make sure that each and every piece is created by a talented writer and then fine-tuned by a professional editor. 

Our writers have a wide range of creative and technical backgrounds that allow us to support businesses across diverse industries and genres. Want to see what we can do? Get in touch for a free piece of content and experience the Copycat difference today.

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