Is editing really necessary?

Sophie Wilkinson

Senior Content Manager

To understand the value of editing, we need to start with the importance of content as a tool that helps build credibility, relationships and ultimately, your brand.

“Copy is the live voice of your brand,” says Jo-ann Fortune, iCrossing UK’s head of content. “Other stylistic elements such as logos and brand colours can go unchanged for years, but what you say and how you say it creates thousands of different messages and potential connections that will shape individuals’ brand perception on a daily basis.”  

Great content can help you win attention online, but if the first thing a reader sees is a bland, unfocussed and confusing message or a misplaced apostrophe, they’re not going to stick around. Bad copy can break brand trust before you’re off the starting blocks.

Keen for your content to shine with personality, work for your strategic goals and meet the high standards of your business? It’s time to get your editor involved.

What’s the difference between editing and proofreading?

Editing and proofreading are two different things, but editors can do both.

Proofreading involves checking grammar, punctuation and typos, and making minor copy tweaks where necessary. It’s a quicker job that tends to be the final step before publishing.

Editing, on the other hand, isn’t just a red-pen job. Editors take care of the big stuff – concentrating on tone of voice, brand strategy and messaging, style, flow, structure, and general impact and digestibility for the reader. All before proofreading it. So they’ll need to see the brief, style and tone guides (signed off by all stakeholders at the start of the project) that the writer has worked from.

What value does an editor bring?

It’s just over a year since the big editor debate surrounding the New York Times. Following the proposed elimination of their traditional copy desk, editors worldwide took to Twitter using #whyeditors to show their support. Their argument? Editors are a must-have – even for the most experienced writers – no matter the subject, length, audience or purpose of the content.

To understand the value editors add, let’s further break down what they actually do:

  • Represent the reader. A writer can get bogged down in fulfilling aspects of a brief, so the editor is there to represent the reader, seeing the copy through fresh eyes. They’re able to flag any unanswered questions and make sure the content isn’t too technical for the audience, cut down waffle and repetition, and restructure sentences and paragraphs.

  • Make sure copy matches the brief, for example checking the right messages, calls-to-action and keywords are covered to help the content meet its objectives.

…and the rest of the content you produce. This is where the style and tone of voice guidelines come in. An editor will check copy against these to ensure brand consistency. If your editor fed into your content strategy, they’ll be aware of how well it ties in with any wider brand goals.

  • Fact-check claims, names and figures, and flag questions around potential legal or compliance concerns.

  • Provide writers with constructive feedback on content, structure and pointers for their development, so you’ll get a better product next time. 

  • Proofread; catching typos, spelling, punctuation and grammar. According to Tom Stafford, psychologist at the University of Sheffield, with our own writing, "we don't catch every detail, we're not like computers or NSA databases… Rather, we take in sensory information and combine it with what we expect, and we extract meaning." So, we’re always competing with what we think we’ve written. There may be ways you can trick your brain into paying more attention (printing out your work or changing the font) but you’re never going to be able to fully distance yourself.

And it’s not just editors who are banging the drum for their own cause. In an open letter, the New York Times reporters also spoke up in defence of their copy desk colleagues:

“We write to you as the saved – those whose copy, facts and sometimes the intelligibility of a sentence or two have been hammered into shape by our friends and colleagues on the editing desks. Our editors ask smart questions, engage passionately with our copy, and serve as our safety nets. Editors – and yes, that especially means copy editors – save reporters and The Times every day from countless errors, large and small.”

Do you need an editor for shorter copy tasks?

From long-form articles to PPC ads, social copy or SEO metadata – editors can make the difference between forgettable and standout messages. And as shorter copy is often created in volume batches, writers can be more likely to miss or repeat things.

Where there isn’t time for an editor to go over each-and-every copy line, involve them in the planning stages to share tips, tricks and templates that will help writers and analysts create the right messaging for different audiences. 

“Ads on Google are so similar by design because everybody has access to the same information: the keyword” says iCrossing UK’s managing partner, Alistair Dent. “Our clients have seen great uplifts by involving experienced editors to craft ads that really stand out from the competition, and we see the results every day in improved click-through rates.”

In an industry built on communication, trust an editor to make yours crystal clear. 


Want to know more about how an editor can help you meet your business goals? Get in touch today.

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