Editing vs. Copyediting: What's the Difference?

    If you have ever submitted a paper to an editing service to request editing, you may have heard the question, “Do you need editing or copyediting?” For non-editors, this question can be confusing! What is the difference between editing and copyediting? When do I need editing vs. copyediting? Editing, which is also referred to as content editing, is quite different from copyediting. Although they share some similarities, content editing and copyediting are used at different parts of the writing process. In this article, we will discuss the differences between editing and copyediting. This way, when hiring editing services, you will know what to expect and what type of editing to request.

    What is Editing and Academic Editing?
    Editing, also known as content/substantive editing, is very different from copyediting. Just as the name implies, content editing focuses on the content of a written piece. A content editor will adjust your content and improve your writing overall. Content editors for fiction books will leave suggestions for changing a character or story arc. Academic editing is rather different. When content editors review academic papers, they point out incomplete arguments, suggest better titles, and highlight areas that need additional data or support. They may leave suggestions and questions for you about the points you have made and the data you have cited to support those points.

    Content editing is an important step for any writer and can be performed by a colleague, supervisor (for academic editing), publisher, or an editing service. Content editing should be performed early on in the writing process. Once you have written your first draft of an article, book, or essay, you should solicit content editing. Once the editor has left their comments and suggestions on your writing, you can then go back and add or delete sections to improve your writing overall. It is important to have content editing early on in the writing process so that you can make big changes and improvements to the major parts of your writing before you worry about polishing spelling and grammar. If you wait until the end stages of your writing to ask for content editing, you may very well waste a lot of time and effort.

    What is Copyediting?
    A good copy-editor or copy-editing service will review your writing to make sure it sounds professional and there are no typographical errors. If you are a non-native speaker of English, a copy-editor will also help revise your sentences so that they sound more natural in English. For example, if you hire a copy-editing service, they might change your long passive voice sentences into active voice or include subjects where you forgot them. A great copy-editing service can be invaluable in making your writing seem professional. Why is copyediting important? First of all, a well-written document with no spelling errors just looks more professional than a document with basic errors. It is less likely that a reviewer will take your work seriously if it has basic spelling or grammar errors. Worse, small errors can drastically change your meaning. While you might not know the specific difference in the nuance between “ashamed of” and “ashamed for,” your copy-editing service does and will make sure that your paper says exactly what you want it to before you send it off for print. Copyediting should happen at the end of your writing process, once the content is organized and you don’t have anything else you plan to add or delete. Do not ask your copy editor to revise your writing early on, as this will waste both your time and theirs.

    Editing vs. Copyediting: A Quick Guide
    Below is a quick guide to illustrate the major differences between editing and copyediting.

    Highlight incomplete or incoherent argumentsYesNo
    Suggest organizational changesYesNo
    Make title changesYesNo
    Fix grammar errorsNoYes
    Fix spelling errorsNoYes
    Check for typographical errorsNoYes
    Point out lacking dataYesNo
    Point out logical flawsYesNo
    Fix capitalization errorsNoYes

    When Do I Need Editing vs. Copyediting?
    How do you know when you need editing vs. copyediting? Content editing is for the early stages in your writing process and should be performed after your first or second draft. Copyediting should happen later in your writing process. You can look to hire a copy editor or copy-editing service after you have written what feels like your final draft. When there are no major changes left to make or sections to add to your writing, you are ready for a copy editor. The copy editor will smooth out your writing and make sure that your document sounds and looks great. It is also advisable to hire a proofreader after your work has been thoroughly edited to make sure that it is perfect and ready for publication. However, if you are submitting your work to a publisher or journal, often they will provide proofreading services for you.

    You might wonder what the advantages are of using an editing service or copy editing services. While you can always ask a friend or colleague for editing help, when you are preparing to submit your writing for a professional publication, editing services are usually the best choice. Enago’s professional copy editing or content editing services will offer specialists in your field who are familiar with any technical terms you are using. They will also be professional writers who are skilled at phrasing and able to catch minor errors that non-professionals easily overlook. This kind of knowledge is especially important when you want to submit an academic article or research publication to a journal. While it can be a challenge to find a reliable editing service or skilled copy editing services, fortunately, these days, there are many options available online. Thanks to the Internet, professional copy editors and editors are now just a click away.