Our Blog

Will Copy Editing Ruin My Work? Here’s How to Avoid a Bad Editing Job.

Photo of a frustrated man with glasses looking in disbelief at his laptop.
Will copy editing ruin your work? Yes, it has happened. Keep reading to find out how to avoid it. (Photo: Ground Picture)

Finally finishing up a writing project can be exciting. After days, weeks, or even months of work, it’s time to pair your words with some stylish design and send it out into the world.

There’s just one thing left to do before the copy is finalized: copy editing.

Copy editing is an essential part of the writing process, but it’s also a step that can easily go wrong.

If you’re not careful, copy editing can ruin your work and turn it into something completely different from what you intended. It’s no wonder so many writers feel anxiety and frustration about the thought of working with an editor.

But copy editing doesn’t have to be a nightmare. By understanding the process and what to expect, you can avoid many of the pitfalls that can make copy editing a disaster.

Here’s what you need to know about copy editing, why it’s so important, and how to make sure your copy editor does a great job.

Why Copy Editing Will Never Be Perfect

While many dream of handing off their copy and getting it back in perfect, ready-to-publish condition, this simply isn’t the reality. Even when you have the best copy editor in the world, your copy will probably have a few points that need revisions or extra discussions.

This isn’t because the copy editor isn’t doing their job. There are just a few natural limitations to editing, which can be summed up in the following three points.

1. Human Error

As much as copy editors may hope for perfection, the fact is, they’re human. That means the occasional typo, misplaced quotation mark, or misspelling might elude them, even after they’ve looked over the copy several times.

2. Editing Is (Surprisingly) Subjective

To the untrained eye, a simple sweep to ensure all the grammar in a piece is correct may seem as straightforward as solving a math equation. There should be one answer with no gray area … right?

Well, it’s not quite that simple. Just as art is in the eye of the beholder, copy editing is often subjective. What one copy editor may deem as an issue could be acceptable to (or even preferred by) another copy editor.

This subjectivity can come into play with small choices, such as whether or not to use Oxford commas, or it can be something a bit more abstract. For example, many sentences sound awkward even though they’re technically correct, and editing them is often at the discretion of the individual editor.

3. Creative and Stylistic Differences

In addition to minor grammar and syntax issues being subjective, each copy editor has their own style, much in the same way each writer has their own style.

This may not be a problem if the copy editor’s style closely resembles the style your copy is supposed to have, but it can be an issue if there’s a disconnect.

For example, one copy editor may automatically default to formal language, while another may think it’s best for writing to be conversational. This can affect everything from the way they edit your word choice and sentence flow to the way they conceptualize the theme of your entire piece.

Don’t Miss: Editing vs. Proofreading: What’s the Difference, and When to Use Each?

Photo of an editor's red pen on a marked-up document.
It’s worth your while to spend a little more money on a higher-quality copy editor. (Photo: Pixabay)

How to Make Sure Your Copy Editing Gets Done Right

Although there are some natural limitations to what a copy editor can do, you can avoid many problems by making the proper preparations before the editing process even begins.

Here are three things you should do to ensure your copy editor understands your vision and edits your piece properly.

1. Hire the Right Editor

Although it may be tempting to hire the cheapest copy editor you can find on a freelance website, it’s worth your while to spend a little more on a high-quality editor.

A good copy editor with lots of experience working for different clients will be able to balance your needs with editing best practices. They’ll be flexible in changing the rules they ordinarily go by to fit your voice, tone, vision, or brand guidelines.

At the same time, they’ll also have the awareness to understand when the rules shouldn’t be bent. They’ll understand the difference between a sentence that is strange but fits your tone and a sentence that’s awkward no matter what context it’s in.

In short, a good copy editor will understand how to improve your copy without butchering it.

If you’re looking for such a high-quality copy editor, reach out to us at Super Copy Editors. We have many years of experience working with agencies, marketing teams, and education companies, and we will work with you to understand your needs and preferences.

2. Be Clear With Your Copy Editing Expectations

Although a good copy editor will have the skills and awareness to adjust their editing style to your needs, they’ll never be a mind reader. For them to do a stellar editing job, you need to be clear about what you expect.

This includes having a discussion (or perhaps a written set of guidelines) about the expected tone, voice, and even grammar and syntax rules of your brand.

Are you going for a more playful tone, or do you want to keep it professional and serious? Does your business use AP style capitalization and Oxford commas?

A good copy editor will understand how to improve your copy without butchering it. They’ll be flexible in changing the rules they ordinarily go by to fit your voice, tone, and vision.

Even more important, you should do a thorough job of explaining the overall vision, goal, and context of the writing you want edited. Is the piece for demand-generation purposes, or is it for clients who are already paying customers? Is there other copy associated with the piece, like ads, webpages, or white papers?

Providing guidelines that are as detailed as possible will help your editor understand the “why,” “how,” and “what” behind your copy, which will help them edit it in a way that best meets your needs.

3. Keep an Open Dialogue

Although it’s important to be clear about your copy editing expectations before the process begins, it’s also essential to keep an open dialogue during and after copy editing.

No matter how much work you do beforehand, there will inevitably be questions and concerns that come up during copy editing from both you and the editor. Keeping a channel for communication open is essential to having these concerns solved without generating misunderstandings.

This means that if you see something you’re not sure about, or if you’re not happy with a change that was made, feel free to reach out to your copy editor and ask about it. Similarly, copy editors should feel comfortable raising questions or concerns they have with you.

Make sure your editor has an email, phone number, or other point of contact to raise questions.

A good copy editor explains their choices and offers solutions that solve your concerns without compromising the quality of their work. If an editor is unable or unwilling to do this, it’s a sign they may not be the best fit for you.

Get Expert Copy Editing Services With Super Copy Editors

If you’re trying to find a copy editor who can understand your needs and improve your copy without ruining it, look no further than Super Copy Editors.

Our team of expert copy editors can help you with anything from simple grammar and spelling fixes to tone and voice suggestions for any kind of copywriting project you may have. To get started, contact us for a quote today.

Found this helpful? Please share:

Boost Your Workday With These Tips

Get 1 ridiculously powerful writing tip or productivity hack by email, 2x per week. Perfect for marketers, agencies, and education companies. It’s free. 💪

Dave Baker

View posts by Dave Baker
Hi, I’m Dave Baker, founder and copy chief of Super Copy Editors. I have more than 25 years of professional proofreading and copy editing experience, including work for The Nation magazine, The New York Times, and The Times-Picayune of New Orleans, where I shared two staff Pulitzer Prizes. At Super Copy Editors, we’re passionate about helping agencies, marketing teams, and education companies refine and polish their text to give them confidence and ensure success. Learn more here.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

photo of a collection of style guides and books on advertising, marketing, and education