For a writer who’s spent hours on a 2,000-word blog article or 100-word landing page copy, the same begins to happen. Even the most diligent writer who reviews their own work can miss glaring mistakes and nuanced faux pas. Also, when they’ve spent so much time in their own thoughts and working independently, it’s helpful to bounce ideas off another party well-versed in editorial best practices and the brief at hand.
Copywriting editing is a crucial step of any publishing process. Editing is way more than catching typos. Editing elevates the accuracy and value of your content. Here’s how.
The 3 Editing Stages: A Primer
Before we get into it, there are various types of editing. An editor should devote each read-through to one type. This is not an exhaustive list, but in a tight-turnaround world, here are the three can’t-miss editing stages:
- Developmental editing. Also known as substantive editing, embark on this step first. Evaluate the substance of the article. The point of the piece should be blindingly clear. Editors need to understand the subject matter almost as thoroughly as the writer to be able to identify when the writer is hiding a dull point behind flowery language. When substance is lacking, copy editors should ask prompting questions to fill in the gaps or be available to discuss how to make the piece more robust.
I once had an editor colleague who would take a first pass at reading through an article with his arms crossed, frowning at the screen. Only later did I learn that this was to stop himself from fixing the glaring proofreading errors during the first developmental edit. During this step, editors should focus only on the big picture.
- Copyediting. Once the substance of the article is solidified, the next step is copyediting. Copyediting focuses on revising content to improve clarity, flow, organization, and tone. An article could have the most profound conclusions, but if it’s written in a boring way, you’re not going to keep readers on the page long enough to appreciate your unique point of view. Copyediting requires agonizing over word usage and finding creative ways to convey the thesis in an exciting way that speaks exactly to the target audience.
- Proofreading. Proofreading consists of a sentence-level line edit. This is the final stage where copy editors erase errant commas, fix typos and grammatical mistakes, and in general, clean up the ultimate version. Proofreading should take place after every stakeholder has input their feedback and no more changes to the copy are made.
Clean Copy and Brand Trust
Error-free copy is a sign of respect to your reader. It shows you care about giving them accurate, thorough content that received your undivided attention. Your customers, at every stage of the buying and research journey, want to feel special. Good content is a way to do that. Your blog may be a potential customer’s first touchpoint with your brand. This is your chance to impress them.
Maybe because I’ve written too many cybersecurity articles, but if I see a sloppy email or website, I immediately distrust it and think it’s a phishing scheme. Worst-case scenario, your email marketing recipients and visitors think the same thing, mark you as spam, and you lose them forever. Microsoft Word’s red and green underlines can only catch so much, so employ a professional editor before publishing anything to your website or sending collateral to potential customers.
Especially for brands that are leveraging AI-generated content to bolster their written efforts, they should really employ the brain of a human editor. While ChatGPT is advanced enough where spelling errors are nonexistent and poor grammar is rare, the results are often choppy and sound stiff.
Style Guide Adherence
Whether you employ AP Style, the Chicago Manual of Style, or a motley combination of style rules, consistency is imperative. If you use the serial comma, use it ALL the time. It’s not just the grammar snobs and extra-attentive readers who’ll notice inconsistencies. Anyone can pick up on them and judge you for them.
This goes back to showing respect for the reader and putting your brand in the best light possible. Before embarking upon or refreshing a content program, make sure you have a style guide. Style guides actually speed along the writing and editing process because it minimizes guesswork and doesn’t require one or the other to look back at the archives to see how the brand has dealt with similar scenarios in the past. Consider adding a glossary for niche industry terms that have out-of-the-ordinary capitalizations or variant spellings.
Style guides evolve over time, so make sure to keep up to date and disseminate to the entire company, not just your copywriting and editing corps. But definitely loop in your writers and editors into the creation of that style guide. It seems small, but it’s another step to ensuring professional, clean, and trustworthy content all the time.
Staying on Brand All the Time
An editor knows your brand and your audience inside and out. They also read your competitors’ content and can identify their shortcomings that you can capitalize upon. The most successful content programs are ones that have the most distinctive voices. You should be able to scrub your name off your content and still have readers and followers know that your company is behind it. That’s the goal.
B2B companies may think that all the fun is reserved for consumer brands, but what they should remember is that all content is B2H: business to human. Tap your most vibrant employees to byline content for your blogs. After a 30-minute interview, an editor should be able to capture that employee’s voice and translate their passion into an engaging piece of content that conveys their passion.
Benefits of an Agency Content Partner
Companies, especially those in niche B2B industries, may be hesitant to entrust their content to an outside agency. It takes subject matter experts (SMEs) years to grasp the technology. How can a writer or editor from an agency pick it up in a week?
A valid concern.
While your SMEs are no-doubt brilliant, they may not be the best at articulating their immense knowledge in a way that doesn’t sound like a research paper. The benefit of outside content help is that they can shape your SMEs’ thoughts into a pleasant-to-read, SEO-rich piece that’ll generate value to the company. Agency content professionals thrive in the deadline-driven environment, which includes getting up to speed quickly on new clients. For instance, I’ve worked on accounts ranging from vegan lifestyle to storm window manufacturers, industrial robotics, toothpaste, cloud computing, pet care, and supply chain management systems. It’s exhilarating to learn new things.
Copy editors outside of your organization aren’t shackled by the “We’ve always done it this way” of internal politics. Just like editors assist writers in making sense of their masterpiece, an agency editor can be the outside view you need to tell you when your painting is crooked.