Content Editing vs. Copy Editing – What’s the Difference?

Content editing and copy editing are two different jobs in the editor world. However, the aspects of writing they review and edit are different. One evaluates the “bigger picture,” while the other looks into the minor details.

What is the difference between content editing and copy editing? This post will show you their similarities and differences with examples.

What is Content Editing?

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Content editing is an editing process where the editor takes a bird’s eye view of your text. The three C’s that content editing services are in charge of include consistency, clarity, and cohesiveness. This editing process ensures that the message is communicated appropriately.

Some components of the content editing stage include the flow of the sentences, factual errors, and logical structure. The content editor is also in charge of the brand voice of the piece of content.

Other content editors offer extra services for search engine optimization. Here, one of the requirements of content editing is checking if there are enough keywords. The digital content has to be loaded with keywords to keep its ranking high on search engines.

Unlike developmental editing, content editing does not focus on the documents’ main argument or sequence of events. The pacing of paragraphs and plot holes are beyond the content editor’s job.

An experienced editor should adhere to the organization’s style guide if you write content for a company. Some also use the major style manuals like AP, Chicago, and MLA to keep everything perfect.

An excellent professional editor uses the spelling of its regional language. For instance, if they use British English, they should stick to its spelling and vocabulary rules.

They will fix the language and fine-tune content to produce error-free, professional documents.

Content Editing Examples

Consider this short paragraph below.

The theatre was introduce in the 3rd century by a priest named Thespis, making him the first ever actor. A Greek chronicle also states that Thespis is the first winner of a theatrical award. If you want to be a thespian like Thespis, the New York School of Drama should be enrolled in by you!

Now, let’s look at the edited version of the paragraph.

A priest named Thespis introduced the theater in the 6th century, making him the first-ever actor. A Greek chronicle also states that Thespis is the first winner of a theatrical award. If you want to be a thespian like Thespis, enroll in the New York School of Drama now!

Correcting basic grammar mistakes and spelling errors isn’t necessarily the task of a content editor. But since the editing spectrum is broad, you’ll often find content editors who offer these extra proofreading services. Here, the mindful editor changed “introduce” to “introduced.”

Because it’s a promotional piece, the content editor changed the sentence structure from passive voice to active voice. This strategy not only made the piece readable but also more engaging and persuasive.

Notice how the professional copy editor changed the writer’s spelling from “theatre” to “theater.” This change makes the piece suitable for the American target audience. It could be because the writer was confused by the different English variants’ regional differences.

Lastly, an excellent copy editor checks for accuracy. They changed the name from “3rd century” to “6th century” to observe factual accuracy.

How Can I Be a Good Content Editor?

To become a skilled copy editor, your eyes should spot more than just the obvious errors, such as grammatical errors and simple spelling errors. Here are some language-related skills you should gain.

Ability to Spot Awkward Sentences

Some sentences have correct structures but do not sound good because of the stuffy language. There are also grammatically sound-run on sentences or comma splices that the content editor should spot. An editing tool like Grammarly or ProWritingAid can help.

Ability to Work with Creative Writers

Technical pieces of writing aren’t the only documents you will work with. You also must master the flow and structure of an experienced writer in the creative area. Learn how they choose words, describe events, and use figurative language.

It’s also vital to learn the distinct difference between the tone of literary pieces and technical writing.

Another type of document you will encounter as a content editor is academic writing. Learn the parts of a research paper, the guidelines for abstracts, and the correct tone of voice.

Skills in Recognizing the Tone of Voice

Knowledge of tone and voice entails a thorough understanding of complex brand style guides. Reflect on the writer’s intent, intended audience, and what they want their readers to learn.

What is Copy Editing?

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Copy editing is one of the levels of editing that concentrates on the minor aspects of writing. These include spelling, grammar, punctuation errors, and other embarrassing errors that the writer might have.

This type of editing might only look for fundamental errors. However, it requires sharp attention to detail. Copy editors edit a range of documents, from academic papers to book manuscripts at all times.

The goal of copy editing is to keep it free from mechanical errors. You don’t have to look at the flow of the writing, the story, and your arguments. But you need to pull out your magnifying glass to perform the task.

Some excellent copy editing services include sentence rewrites. They include fixing your paragraph structure and sentence construction. Another additional service they may give is

If you’re hiring a copy editor, ensure they can do fast, high-quality editing. These professionals should be able to get your message out in the most precise and accurate way possible.

Copy Editing Examples

Consider this short paragraph below.

The theatre was introduce in the 3rd century by a priest named Thespis, making him the first ever actor! A greek chronicle also states that Thespis is the first winner of a theatrical award. If you want to be a thespian like Thespis, the New York School of Drama should be enrolled in by you!

Here’s the copy-edited version of the piece.

A priest named Thespis introduced the theatre in the 3rd century, making him the first-ever actor. A Greek chronicle also states that Thespis is the first winner of a theatrical award. If you want to be a thespian like Thespis, the New York School of Drama is for you!

Notice how the copy editor did not make corrections on the paragraph lengths and intended audience. The writer may hire a content editor for these aspects after the writing process.

Writers also have the option to avail of extra services from the copy editor if they offer any. Look for an editor who can provide accurate editing services regarding paragraph structure, flow, and factual accuracy.

Copy Editing vs. Content Editing: What’s the Difference?

Let’s look at the different aspects of writing that differentiate copy editing and content editing.

Rules of Grammar and Spelling: Copy Editor

Even the most seasoned writer can commit typographic errors. That’s why a copy editor can help the writer with suggestions regarding their spelling and grammar issues.

These professionals know the different grammar rules, from subject-verb agreement to noun-antecedent consistency. You can count on them to perfect and polish your entire piece.

Capitalization Issues: Copy Editor

The type of editor we need for fixing capitalization issues is a copy editor. This online editing service knows the answer to whether you capitalize after a colon and in titles. Other forms of editing that can also spot errors in capitalization include content editing and proofreading.

Fact-Checking: Content Editor

Fact-checking is a facet of content editing that helps avoid misinformation and fake news. This layer of editing requires critical thinking skills about different content types and information disseminators.

One tip for content editors who want to create proficiency pieces is to check the source’s “Contact Us” page. See if they have a legitimate email address that matches their domain.

Punctuation Errors: Copy Editing

Among the team of editors and the layers of editing, the copy editor is in charge of correcting punctuation errors.

Differences in language conventions also mean differences in punctuation rules. For example, some style guides might recommend an Oxford comma, while others don’t.

Structure and Flow: Content Editing

Aside from content editing, substantive editing also evaluates the flow and structure of a piece of writing.

Award-winning editors know how to create a logical progression in their arguments. They must ensure that the talking points also transition seamlessly.

Brand Voice and Tone: Content Editing

Content editing is one of the types of editing that is responsible for following the style guide. For example, a business company might prefer fun and engaging editing styles instead of a formal and serious tone.

Content Editing and Copy Editing: Which One Do You Need?

I wish this guide has given you everything you need to know about content editing vs. copy editing. These two tasks are inherently similar but require different skills and processes. Remember:

  • Get a copy editor to check the minor details like spelling, grammar, and punctuation issues.
  • Hire a content editor if you want to fix your writing’s flow and structure.