Copy Editing Vs. Content Editing – Distinguishing Factors

copy editing vs. content editing – distinguishing factors

Does your text require copy editing or content editing? But aren’t they the same?

This is one of the most common areas where people get confused. There are many writers who think that content editing and copy editing are the same, while some even believe they’re complete opposites. We’re here to differentiate between the two types of editing and highlight what makes them distinct as well as certain similarities that lead to confusion.

What is Copy Editing?

In copy editing, the editor views your book from the perspective of a publishing professional. They look to see if the writing is clear and consistent, if all the details are in place, and if there are any glaring errors. This view takes into account whether or not your manuscript can be published as is, without extensive rewriting. Additionally, the copyeditor also checks grammar and spelling, looks at your citations to make sure they are correctly formatted according to a style guide (for scholarly books), and considers how well your illustrations fit with the text.

What is Content Editing?

In content editing, the editor looks at your book through the lens of the reader experience. They look at the flow of ideas, the strength of evidence, how well each chapter fits into the book’s narrative arc, and how well the language is used to get across your message without being bogged down in cumbersome passages. This view takes into account your intended audience.

In other words, is it written for children? Adults? Do you have a special interest group you need to address (like pastors or teachers, or politicians)? Once these questions are answered, an editor can begin considering whether or not a particular passage is relevant to that audience.

Read More: What is the Difference Between Editing and Proofreading?

Copy Editing vs. Content Editing – The Difference

You will likely find yourself using both types of editor’s services at one time or another while working on a text, so it is important to know their key differences. There are quite a few distinct features when it comes to copy editing vs. content editing, especially in terms of what each editor is responsible for, such as:

Editing Skills

A major difference between copy editing and content editing is the skill level required for both jobs. Copy editors must have strong proofreading skills, be familiar with the AP style, as well as possess an excellent command of grammar and punctuation. Content writers do not necessarily need to be so strict in their writing style. They are primarily concerned with the style and tone of the content penned down. However, both writers use correct spelling and syntax in their writing.


Another difference in copy editing vs. content editing is that copy editors are responsible for ensuring that all facts written in an article are true and relevant to the content. In contrast, content writers must be able to take information from one source and combine it with other information that may be pertinent to the given subject matter.



Copy editors must also check a writer’s work for any typographical errors. It is the copy editor’s job to also ensure that all foreign languages are translated correctly in a publication, and make sure that there are no typographical errors in any written content. Copy editors must be able to recognize and identify when there are technical references to symbols, equations, or scientific notation that may need further explanation or may be confusing to an audience.

For example, a copy editor will change your “big data analytics system” to read “big data analytics tools” because it’s more natural. When your audience sees this, they won’t have to stop and think about the precise meaning of the text.


In copy editing vs. content editing, content editors don’t worry about such things as “stacking” words or phrases to meet the desired column width or leaving out less important material. Their goal is efficiency without sacrificing readability, which both editors can find a grey area in, except for the additional technicalities the copy editor is involved in.


Feedback and how they communicate back differs for content editors and copy editors. If you were to pick up a book written by a content editor, you would have an idea of the process used in working on it. If you picked up a book written by a copyeditor, it would be more of a beat-for-beat copyedit with no outside comments. If you picked up a book written by both, the copy editor would probably provide some guidance on the manuscript that was not attained during the content edit. However, in the end, it is up to each editor to decide whether or not to incorporate that feedback into the final product.

Content Editing vs. Copy Editing – The Similarities

content editing vs. copy editing – the similarities

Similarities between copy editing and content editing include attention to detail, how they work together as a team, how they must know their subjects well to bring out the best in what has already been written, and how they are constantly learning new skills on the job. Copy editors and content editors work with the same raw material, i.e., words on the page. But before they send it off to the printer, their job is to make sure that all of those words are in their best possible light.

Which Editing Do I Need?

Now that you know the key differences between copy-editing vs. content editing, it raises a question regarding which service to opt for. Simply put, if you’re writing content for your website or blog, it’s usually best to get a content editor if you can. A copy editor will be appropriate if there are any major grammatical issues with the text you’ve written or if it’s unclear what you mean. On the flip side, a content editor will be suitable if you’ve written well-written text that just needs a little editing in general and some grammar cleanup.

However, get some copy editing done if you are selling some kind of product and need to be sure that everything reads well with no awkward wording or anything that makes it sound like spammy advertising. In either case, both professionals ensure every word in the document is grammatically correct.

Additionally, to ensure that your manuscript is used as intended, both the content editors and copy editors must visit your article early and often, even before you submit it or once you begin the revision process. A good copy editor will catch small errors and inconsistencies early on, while your content editor will catch larger errors in style and subject matter.

Read More: Revising Vs Editing – All You Need to Know in 2022


You may have noticed that these two duties aren’t all that different in content editing vs. copy editing, as many of their questions and responsibilities overlap. They both look for errors that could cause potential problems to the reader, and both ask a lot of questions about their audience.

If you’re sure of the difference between the two and are looking to hire either a copy editor or content editor, or both, you’re simply just one click away from getting professional editors. You can also find a variety of services and informative content and be familiar with the process of writing for marketing.