Although the names copywriter and copyeditor share the common root term copy, there are some fundamental differences between these roles. Fundamentally, copywriting is about creating original content, whereas copyediting is a checking process for pre-existing written material.

Copywriting generally involves the production of written content for clients, usually on a particular topic or theme, and for a specific purpose. The most common outputs are marketing, publicity and advertising copy to influence, persuade, and convince customers to buy products and services. Key goals are to get a response from the target audience, whether it is changing a behaviour, selecting a brand, or making a purchase.

A copywriter’s working process entails acquiring a client brief, understanding the purpose of the project, clarifying its key messages, planning the structure and then distilling everything into sharp, effective written communication. Copywriters can work in advertising agencies, marketing departments of commercial businesses and organisations, and in marketing and communication departments within the public sector.

Although tasks may include standard copywriting activities, like producing text content for leaflets, newsletters, email campaigns, websites and social media, they can also involve creating slogans and headlines for graphics, as well as scripts for both radio and television advertisements. 

In many respects, copywriting can be considered a creative activity as it involves working with concepts and language in an original, imaginative way to raise an audience’s awareness and consciousness.

Copywriters have these key attributes:

  • Polished writing skills (e.g., the ability to express ideas clearly)
  • Productive interview skills (e.g., the ability to empathise and relate to people)
  • Effective research skills (e.g., the ability to investigate)
  • Creative thinking skills (e.g., generate and produce new concepts)

Copyediting, on the other hand, has a more technical focus and is a checking process that can be applied to all types of writing. Within publishing, the early structural editing stage looks at and evaluates the meaning of content, while the later copyediting stage involves monitoring and reviewing the functional and applied aspects of language.

In other words, copyediting is an important role on the editing continuum, and in terms of level of responsibility, sits below the structural editor but above the proofreader. Principal tasks include correcting language errors (grammar, spelling, punctuation), applying design styling, checking artwork, preparing prelims and endmatter, and checking for libel, plagiarism, and copyright issues.

A copyeditor may also engage in or oversee the final proofreading process for consistency and accuracy to ensure writing is as accessible and readable as possible for its target audience.

Copy editors must have these key attributes:

  • Excellent comprehension and skills with English language, including spelling and grammar
  • an eye for detail and a meticulous approach to written language
  • the ability to concentrate, maintain high standards, and meet tight deadlines
  • a passion for and comprehensive understanding of literature and other writing genres.

Traditionally, copyeditors were most often employed by publishers, and the print media (e.g., newspapers and magazines). Nowadays, many copyeditors are found across advertising agencies, public relations companies, retail businesses, and government agencies. Some copyeditors are self-employed and are employed on an in-house or freelance basis.

To sum up, copywriting is different from copyediting. However, what’s important to remember is that although both roles involve distinct processes, acquiring skills in both areas could make you a powerful asset to any organisation or second to none as a freelancer. If you are interested in expanding your general writing and editing capabilities, NZIBS has a range of courses that may fit the bill.

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