The Importance of Copyediting

It happens so, so often. You’re excited to send that email, post that blog post, or submit your manuscript to a publisher. Then your stomach sinks when you see those glaring typos: you used “your” instead of “you’re,” “there” instead of “their,” or you skipped a word entirely, creating a confusing, misleading sentence.

Enter copyediting. Copyediting your work, or having a professional do it for you, is such an essential step of the writing process – whether you’re writing an email, a blog post, or a book – that it needs to be a priority for every single project.

No matter what your industry, the written materials you put out into the world reflect your brand, your ability, and your passion. Typos send a very negative message and poorly-edited work can not only confuse or frustrate your audience, but can also cause your credibility to take a hit. That’s why it pays to recognize the importance of copyediting and to include it as a key step in any project.

What is copyediting?

Copyediting is often confused with proofreading, but it’s not quite the same thing. Proofreading leans more towards reading a document for spelling and grammar errors. Hitting the spellcheck button offers a cursory proofread of your document (though it’s certainly not an infallible tool).

Copyediting, on the other hand, goes a step further. In addition to looking for misspelled words and misplaced commas, a copyeditor can also edit a text for clarity of ideas, consistency of voice, factual accuracy, and the cohesiveness of the entire document.

Why it matters: credibility

So why prioritize copyediting, whether it's done by you or a professional? Because a well-edited document, no matter what it is and no matter what industry you work in, contributes to your credibility.

There’s nothing more cringe-worthy or disappointing than scrolling through the website or blog of a business I’m interested in patronizing, only to come across confusing word choice, poorly phrased sentences, or simple grammar errors that should have been caught by a careful round of editing. If your website, blog, email, or other forms of written material contain errors that are confusing, misleading, or just plain incorrect, your audience will take notice and, whether rightfully so or not, this will reflect poorly on your brand.

A study in the U.K. a few years ago surveyed 1,000 people and 59% of them said they wouldn’t trust or even support an e-commerce site with copy errors. Who wants to lose customers to misspelled words or poor comma usage when it’s so easy to avoid such a problem?

Text that is well-edited shows that you take the time to pay attention to the details and do things the right way. Your clients will notice this, and the way they view your work and your brand will reflect this conscientious approach. In contrast, if producing quality written materials is not a priority, they’ll also notice when corners are cut and simple errors are left unchanged.

Why it matters: consistency

Having your work copyedited also ensures a consistency of voice across your written materials, and that is crucial if you’re trying to maintain a brand image, whether your company has five or 500 employees. Even if your business consists of just you, a copyeditor can help provide uniformity and consistency when it comes to creating social media and web content.

You don’t want your audience to read one blog post and take away one message, but read your website and get a totally different picture of your business and mission. With your brand, mission, and goals in mind, a copyeditor can zero in on the message you’re trying to communicate and help you communicate that in the most consistent and powerful way possible.

A 2014 study indicated that 58% of consumers were “somewhat” or “very” annoyed by the presence of copy errors. Your audience should read your work and be engaged, inspired, and motivated to learn more, not annoyed. Having an objective third party with an eye for confusing, contradictory phrases and basic spelling errors can save you a lot of grief down the road and present a professional and impressive image to your audience.

How to employ copyediting in your business

Copyediting can be applied to emails, marketing materials, social media content, blog posts, or book manuscripts, and everything in between.

Many business owners choose to hire a professional copyeditor. Most copyeditors charge by the page and either have some degree of professional training in copyediting or a great deal of experience writing, giving them a keen eye for good grammar and clean writing. You’ll save yourself time and benefit from a professional who can find errors you missed. A copyeditor can also provide suggestions to communicate your message more clearly, if needed.

At the very least, set some time aside to copyedit your work on your own, or ask a friend or colleague to help you. Go over the material with a fine-toothed comb and read it as if you’re a client or a member of your intended audience.

Don’t depend on the spellcheck tool to do the heavy lifting of copyediting for you. Producing polished written materials will reflect positively on your work and your business and convey to your audience that you care about the details – and about doing things right the first time.

Sarah Coffey is a freelance writer, copywriter, and editor. In college, she converted to Catholicism, met her now-husband Jesse, and received a B.A. in History. In 2018 she took the entrepreneurial plunge and started a copywriting and copyediting business  Coffey Copy & Content, LLC  and hasn't looked back. She loves using her talents for writing and editing to help business owners, students, and writers convey their messages powerfully and cleanly. She is also currently working on a Master's in Sacred Theology through St. Joseph's College of Maine and writes on matters of faith, theology, business, and travel. You can read more of her writing here.