“What’s an editor do? Is that like a copywriter or proofreader?”
A quick answer is ‘same, same, but different’.
So what does an Editor do? Given our national obsession with real estate, consider a house going on the market for auction. Think of that ‘house’ as your website, blog, newsletter or E-book.
The best way to sell that ‘house’ is to make it as appealing to buyers as possible. With a house, your real estate agent will recommend you engage the services of a house stylist.
What services would you get if you engaged an editor/stylist, proofreader/stylist or copywriter/stylist for your written content ‘house’?
The editor as stylist
The editor will advise on things like decluttering, moving or storing certain items of furniture, the purchase of scatter cushions and throws to hide the red wine stain on the sofa and perhaps some new doona covers and towels to give the bedrooms and bathroom a fresh look. This is a light to medium copy edit.
Some ‘houses’ may require more substantial changes. The room you are using as a study may be reverted to its original purpose as formal dining room. The sofa is just a little too shabby, let’s replace it with a hired one. This is a heavier, structural edit.
The editor will also advise you that at each open for inspection, the house should be presented exactly as it is depicted by the photos in the glossy brochure. This is editing for consistency.
However, throughout the entire process the house remains your distinctive home. Much like the gentle art of editing maintains the original voice, while improving the overall content. And like the house stylist, editorial suggestions are just that, suggestions. You can choose to accept, or reject, each suggested change.
The final touch? Of course, the house must be clean, so when final copy is established the editor will proofread to ensure no new errors have popped up during the process from edited copy to final product.
The proofreader as stylist
Your ‘house’ will be scrupulously clean. However, it may still be cluttered and untidy.
The copywriter as stylist
Think furnished display home. You have given your input as to the overall look and perhaps even specified certain aspects such as what artwork to hang on the walls, however the execution of all requirements is done by the stylist.
Who should engage an editor?
In my opinion, everyone, including copywriters, though I am sure they would beg to differ. However, in the wider world, all published content is edited, including this article. Submissions for tender, company reports, sales brochures, etc. – all are edited prior to publication. In the world of fiction (that most personal experience of writing) many authors will publish a note of thanks at the back of their books. They may variously thank their mum, or husband, or even their dog! However, the one person they all thank is their editor.
Engaging an editor is a cost-effective alternative to employing a copywriter, and with a final proofread, gives you two services in one neat package.
The cost of editing depends on two factors, word count and how light, or heavy, an edit is required. An editor will need to see the copy to be able to quote. A specialist digital content editor will also ensure keywords for SEO are used appropriately, that your meta data is error-free and your meta description is clean and sharp.
Reasons for engaging a writing professional
What happens if you don’t engage a copywriter, editor or even a humble proofreader? If your knowledge of grammar and spelling is sound, and you know when your spelling or grammar checker is getting it wrong, then nothing. The inevitable and occasional typo is always forgivable. You are only human.
However, if your copy contains spelling errors rather than typo’s (yes, there is a difference) and your sentences are ungrammatical or clunky, then the ‘house’ you are presenting to the world will not be ‘open for inspection’ perfect, with all that implies for the future success of your ‘auction’. Even more embarrassing, you might find your written content becoming this week’s highlight post on one of those newsfeed websites that delight in exposing bad grammar and misused apostrophes.
The best advice I can give you is this – don’t feed the grammar Nazis. It only encourages them.