Though the term “copy editing” is often used broadly to refer to reviewing written content, there are many types of editing. Each has its own place in the content development process. Familiarize yourself with each form to best understand what you can handle yourself and when you might benefit from partnering with a professional editing service.
Proofreading, sometimes called mechanical editing, is the process of checking the grammatical accuracy of written content. It involves ensuring all spelling, capitalization, punctuation, formatting, noun-pronoun agreement, verb usage and sentence structure is correct.
While often neglected, this step in the writing process is critical to establishing credibility with an audience. One or two errors might cause a reader to question the validity of your work. If you’re not fluent with the rules and mechanics of grammar, it’s best to have a professional editor proofread your writing before publishing it. If you’re going to proofread your own work, it can be helpful to use tips such as printing your work and reading it aloud to spot errors.
2. Line Editing
When most people talk about copy editing, they likely mean line editing. Line editing is the process of assessing the piece of work as a whole, considering its tone, accuracy, clarity, consistency and overall effectiveness. Line editing helps ensure a work’s argument and main points are clear and well-supported.
When line editing, you can take two approaches. If you decide to line edit your own work, it’s best to step away for a couple of days and come back to it with a clear mind. Alternately, you can utilize a copy editing service to provide an unbiased critique from a third party — and ultimately make your piece stronger.
Fact-checking is a more straightforward type of copy editing. It involves ensuring all facts are accurately represented and appropriately attributed according to the publisher’s style requirements. While fact-checking services exist, writers can often fact-check their own work by revisiting referenced works to double-check accuracy before publishing.
Sometimes a result of line editing, rewriting involves reconstructing a portion or all of a written piece. If you’re facing a rewrite, it can be helpful to leverage an outside party to provide a fresh perspective and approach to the piece.
5. SEO Copy Editing
When writing for the web, it’s important to write and edit your copy for search engine optimization. That means identifying the keywords your target audience is searching for — writers often leverage SEO agencies during this phase — and incorporating those words or phrases regularly and naturally throughout the copy.
While they don’t necessarily provide a direct copy edit, SEO copy editors can help with other SEO measures, such as ensuring your site links are up to date, your content is tagged appropriately, and your site architecture allows for search engine crawling.
6. Content Refreshing
As a general rule, it’s a good idea to refresh content on a quarterly basis. This can involve a simple content review to check for a stale or outdated tone of voice, inaccurate or changed information, and other out-of-date copy. Refreshing digital content can also help improve SEO results.
While you can likely refresh your own copy, it can be very affordable to leverage a copy editing service for this work. The copy editors can provide a fresh perspective on your messaging and quickly adapt your copy to a new tone of voice.
As a general rule, if you’re uncertain of your ability in any of these areas, leverage the help of an expert who can affordably copy edit your work in these six ways.