Confused about the difference between copywriting, copy-editing and proofreading? You’re not alone.

For those without daily writing involvement, these three disciplines can seem like a confusing mess. Here’s our attempt to clear things up.

What is copywriting?

If you think of the writing process as similar to building a house, your copywriter’s first draft is a combination of architect and brickie rolled into one. They’ll see the bigger picture, envisage the end product, and do the planning and the main grunt of getting the house built.

Or in our case, they’ll get to grips with the brief, think through the purpose project, confirm or identify key messages, plan the structure and then distil it all into a crisp, effective piece of written communication – your first draft.

After that, there are normally two more stages before the copy is finished. Most good copywriters include these as part of their overall process.

But sometimes, if you’ve already got the bulk of your words in place, you might just need a copy-editor or proofreader rather than a complete copywriting service.

What is copy-editing?

In our house-building analogy, copy-editing is equivalent to fitting the electrics and doing the decorating in your newly-built house.

When you’ve built your initial structure (or written your first draft), this next stage takes your project one step closer to completion.

It attempts to make sure your work is fit for publication by guaranteeing it is accurate and easy to follow.

A copy-editor will look at the nuts and bolts of spelling and punctuation, but will also take a broader view. They will ensure your work is written in a suitable style and tone, check its structure is sound, and flag any omissions, inconsistencies or potential legal issues. They’ll take their sword of clarity to long-winded sentences, jargon and flabby language, pruning the verbiage of blather until only the sharp shoots of clear communication remain.

Once a copy-editor has completed their work, your words are likely to be sent to a designer or content manager to prepare for publication (whether online or offline).

What is proofreading?

Once your design team has prepared your document, proofreading is the final check before you go to print or publish online.

Think of it as someone running around your new house checking the light switches work before they give you the keys.

By now, the room to make big changes is limited. Proofreading is a close-up look at all the little details most take for granted: for example, are the page numbers correct? Do all the pictures have captions? Are there any rogue line breaks? Have any typos crept in?

At this stage, time (and cost) is usually of the essence, so this is not the time to be umming and ahhing about a particular sentence or paragraph, or for an author to decide they want to re-write a section.

Only ‘stop press’ errors like typos, incorrect punctuation or major inconsistencies are likely to be changed. It’s the final polish to ensure your project is in perfect condition before it’s released to the public.
At Wordsworks, of course, we offer all three services. Get in touch if you need any help!