Content Vs. Copy Editing— Which One Do You Need?

Jonatan Parski CEO

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copy editing

Content is all around us. Newspapers, magazines, social media, websites, and billboards all have some form of content trying to catch a reader’s attention. Even a streaming service allows you to use closed captions. Editing services are a crucial part of content creation and should always be part of the process when creating quality content. The question is, do you need copy editing or content editing?

The goal of any piece of content is to grab your audience’s attention while conveying a message. It’s vital that your content needs to reflect your company’s brand, messaging, and tone. Knowing which type of editing service you need is critical in enhancing your content in the best way while aligning with your overall goals.

Ideally, a content manager should work with an editing agency that’ll look at their work objectively, assign the correct type of editor, and correct the piece appropriately. You may already understand the value of having your work edited through a professional editing agency, but you’re unsure whether you should look at content or copy editing services. What’s the difference, and which one do you need for your work? In this article, we’re going to look at:

  • What copy editing is and why you may need it.
  • What content editing is and why you need it.
  • How to choose the correct service.
  • Finding an agency that’s aligned with your content goals.

 It may seem like splitting hairs, but nuances can help you choose the right editing services and deliver the best possible content to the public, free from embarrassing errors. 

What is Copy Editing?

When you think of editing and proofreading, copy editing is likely the service you have in mind. It’s a technical process where the editor checks for fundamental errors in the text. A copy editor looks at the document through a specialized lens.

To begin with, the editor will prepare a sheet with the style and preferred vocabulary of the piece. With that to guide their process, the copy editor can look for repetitive words, localization, and style. They’ll look at any jargon or terms that will be unfamiliar to the audience.

In short, the copy editor ensures that your content meets the highest standards by checking for and correcting:

  • Spelling mistakes.
  • Grammatical and punctuation errors.
  • Syntax issues.
  • Readability and errors with style consistency.
  • Regional language and localization mistakes.
Photo illustration of the word Grammar and different elements related to copy editing
Copy editing is a technical process that reviews different grammatical elements in-depth.

Since it’s a more technical service, having an excellent copy editor is critical. You can’t rely on the blind to lead the blind.

Copy editors don’t:

  • Fix or optimize for SEO.
  • Check facts.
  • Align content with the brand voice.
  • Analyze messaging.

That said, a great copy editor will be able to differentiate between a mistake and language that’s been optimized for a specific audience. For example, if a sentence includes odd local jargon that’ll draw in the target audience, it shouldn’t be removed in favor of something more “correct” or professional.

They should be able to make decisions about what is grammatically correct, along with what is easy to read and understand. Some sentences may be grammatically correct but are challenging to read. The editor can make necessary changes to make the piece readable, especially for publication online. They’ll consider the intended audience and the knowledge they hold, and edit the copy accordingly.

Essentially, a copy editor looks at the finer details without considering the bigger picture. If you have a content project, copy editing should be your first stop to ensure that everything is up to standard.

An editor will use a ‘track changes’ tool to ensure that you’ll see which parts of the article they corrected or reworked. As the editor goes through the piece, they can make changes to the vocabulary or the piece’s flow, which you can accept or reject once the document comes back to you.

Can You Use Software for Copy Editing?

There are plenty of software platforms and applications that help with the copy-editing process. These programs are helpful in the writing process and can help you improve your skills. After learning about the technical nature of copy editing, you may be asking yourself why not use software like Grammarly or ProWritingAid to edit your work and cut costs on the editing process. 

While the latest copy editing software is capable of many things, none can replace the human eye when it comes to technical details. It can help with basic grammar, spelling, and syntax, but it can’t predict the readability of a piece or take into account the jargon or vocabulary of a specific audience.

A copy editor with a good eye for details can make decisions between grammar and readability, something that software can’t do. The software also often makes suggestions that don’t fit the piece’s tone or miss the point of what you’re trying to express. While you can use the software to enhance your content, it shouldn’t replace a good copy editor. 

Content Editing

Once a copy editor has reviewed your content, you may think that it’s ready to publish. All of the mistakes have been corrected and it should now be a polished gem you can share with your audience. While it may be free from errors at this point, there are other essential aspects to consider before you publish, such as:

  • Search engine optimization and keyword testing.
  • Factual accuracy.
  • Brand messaging, style, and tone of voice.
  • Overall structure and flow of the content.

To ensure your copy is in line with these requirements and your brand goals, you need a content editor.

Content editing focuses on the bigger picture of the piece. A content editor won’t look at the technical details of the document; the copy editor should have done so already. Instead, they’ll ensure that the article contains value for the reader, that it aligns with your goals, and that it reads comfortably. Here’s how a content editor works:

Fact Checking and Accuracy

Any good content editor will start by checking the facts in your article. For example, they may review quotes, statistics, and even link to vital sources. While a blog article won’t be held to the same standards as a journalist publishing news or a doctor publishing a paper, the information still needs to be accurate to help you build trust with your audience. If you have a knowledgeable or professional following, this is particularly vital.

If possible, choose to work with a content editor who has experience in your industry or field. If you’re working with an editing agency, request to work with the same individual or group throughout your project to ensure you have guaranteed access to their expertise.

Structure and Flow Review

Once the editor has ensured that all the content is factually accurate, they’ll look at the structure of the piece, including:

  • Headlines and subheadings.
  • Paragraph structure.
  • Logical flow and readability of the article.

Logical flow means that your arguments follow a logical sequence, and your points follow each other. The structure of the article is more than just sentences that are well-written. It’s about how the article builds and the information that the audience receives. The structure can also mean the difference between a purely promotional piece or something that holds intellectual value for the reader.

The goal is to ensure that the content follows a logical format while also enhancing the overall reading experience. To that end, the content editor may move sections around, rephrase certain paragraphs, or remove parts of the article entirely. It’s their job to ensure that your target audience can understand your content easily.

Brand Messaging and Tone of Voice

Content editing will ensure that the document matches the exact style and tone of your brand. Even an experienced writer won’t immediately hit the correct tone and style at first, and the same goes for content editing.

Typically, it can take various sessions of editing and working with the editor to capture your brand in just the right way. A content editor should be well-versed with the company’s branding and ensure that any copy made public is of a certain quality, written in a specific style. This means that there’s consistency in the message that goes out, creating brand loyalty and trust among consumers.

Due to this adjustment period, many brands will opt to work with the same content editors throughout their projects, particularly if they work with an editing agency. It takes time to teach the editor how to meet your exact criteria, and having to switch to new editors repeatedly can cause delays.

Search Engine Optimization

One of the more technical requirements of content editing is search engine optimization (SEO). A content editor will include this step within their process. To optimize your content, they will:

Photo illustration of search engine optimization elements as part of copy editing.
Search engine optimization (SEO) is a vital part of any content editing process.

To improve your SERP rank through quality content, you’ll need to work with a content editor that has a thorough understanding of how search engines evaluate articles. You may prefer to work with either an SEO agency or an editing agency that employs content editors with experience in your field or industry. 

Choosing Between Copy and Content Editing Services – Which is Best For You?

In an ideal world, your editing agency should be able to provide you with both professional copy and content editing services. Both parts of the editing process are essential, along with proofreading, to create the best content in a competitive industry. It’s vital to capture a reader’s attention, standing out from the millions of other articles available online.

Unfortunately, due to time and cost constraints, it isn’t always possible to work with a fully capable editing agency. If you’re forced to decide which of these editing styles you need, you should consider your needs. Do you need a thorough review regarding the technical and grammatical aspects of your content? Or is it more important to have an optimized article in line with your brand’s tone?

If you’re a seasoned writer and can spot mistakes yourself, you may want to copy edit your own work and instead opt for content editing from an agency. Keep in mind that it’s challenging to find one’s own mistakes and be completely objective about your work. However, if you need more help with the structure, tone, and SEO audit for your article, the content editor can help. 

On the other hand, copy editing is an essential part of ensuring the best content for your audience. If you’re not sure that you’ll be able to give the absolute best content on your own, you should consider using the services of a copy editor. 

How To Choose an Editing Agency

When you’re looking for an editing agency, you should consider whether you need content or copy editing, or both. At Captain Words, we offer both content and copy editing services, and any editing agency with quality editors should be able to do both.

Before you hand over your project, do a little research regarding the agency’s reputation and existing customers. Check for reviews and ask for a portfolio before committing to an agency to ensure that they’ll be able to provide the service that you need. 

You should also consider your preferences in the team you’re going to work with, along with the method of communication. You may prefer face-to-face meetings or sending emails with the work. The type of document you need edited can also influence your decision, as not all agencies may have the expertise you need. For example, some agencies will specialize in marketing material, while others work mainly with manuscripts. 

If you’re going to need long-term support with documents, you want to look into choosing an agency with an editorial team. Different perspectives on the documents can help improve your content drastically. You need to establish your goals with the team before making your final decision to ensure that the agency can deliver what you need within your time frame. 

You also need to consider your budget and any time constraints you may have. Choose an agency with a large capacity with well-trained and experienced editors that can work within your budget. 


The difference between content and copy editing is more than just semantics. Both is a skilled process that looks at specific aspects of the article to ensure that the content is quality and will meet the audience’s needs. Both styles of editing are essential to ensure that you publish quality content in line with your brand. 

Copy editing looks at the technical aspects of the article, ensuring that it’s free from errors and has a good flow. The copy editor looks at the grammar, vocabulary, and syntax. Content editing ensures that the article is optimized for search engines, that the structure is logical, and that the content is factual. A good editing agency can help you offer your audience the best content aligned with your brand and improve your company’s image.

At Captain Words, we prioritize building a relationship with our clients, enabling us to understand your unique individual needs. In turn, we provide accurate editing services at a premium price, with access to both experienced content and copy editors. Book a demo with us today.

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Chantelle started her career in IT before eventually finding her way into Marketing. This eventually became her passion, along with Digital Marketing, SEO, and Brand and Web Development. Today, she helps businesses find their voice and grow online.

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