As already elaborated on in various posts and on my About Power-Words page, gaining clarity on my professional purpose and mission to help particularly organisational and social culture changemakers optimise their copy and content has been the culmination of a long-lasting journey to self-discovery, which has led me to finally recognise my talent (with words), my passion (for human behaviour, culture and wellbeing) as well as the power of editorial excellence as a vehicle for change itself.
When it comes to my word crafting talent, or superpower as I refer to it on my About page, I only recognised my life-long love for copy and content excellence as something special (that I could nurture and build a viable business with, even in a second language) once I started creating all marketing content for our small family business and it transformed our whole venture from the inside out, including our business model, strategy, clients, reputation and miraculously our self-image as well.
I’ll have to keep my stories about the eye-opening lessons and joys of entrepreneurship for another time though as today’s post is about clarifying the difference between proofreading, editing and writing, in order to then understand where my superpower comes in, why I may be ideally suited to work with culture changemakers, and what I’m not (hint: a kickass copywriter).
Proofreading, editing and writing explained
Proofreading is the quality assurance of the final draft, or the proof, of a print publication, document, website or any other communications material before release or go-live. It covers:
- Identifying typos and essential errors in spelling, grammar and punctuation.
- Ensuring consistency of styles and elements such as paragraphs, line spacing and fonts.
- Checking numbering and formatting of captions, references, citations and table of contents. (not included: checking the accuracy or getting permission for quoted content or citations)
- Testing links and functionality, mainly for online content.
- General minor sense checking. (not included: re-wording or structural adjustments to improve flow or readability)
Editing and developmental editing
Editing is about improving a draft version of a text publication, whether for print or online and getting it ready for proofreading (the final stage before publication). It covers:
- Ensuring quality in spelling, grammar, punctuation as well as (for online content) functionality and linking.
- Applying consistent tone of voice, style and formatting as per your house style. (not included: creating a style or tone of voice guide)
- Numbering and formatting of captions, references, citations and table of contents, including fact integrity and online research.
- Suggesting adjustments to sentence structure and flow, and questioning intended impact (or also legal issues where recognised) to assure general readability, clarity and impact. (not included: developing or planning content)
Developmental editing – also referred to as substantive or structural editing – takes the editing process a step further to include checking and adjusting the logical flow and overall cohesion of a text. Particularly when it comes to websites there are multiple parts and pages that need to come together and form what is called the user-experience or journey (which ultimately leads the users to take action; and search engines to take notice).
This process often involves moving content sections around, rewriting portions of content, or also re-confirming and clarifying strategic objectives of the content, which can sometimes even lead to a deeper soul-searching journey and effectively turn into writing from scratch.
The dictionary states: ‘Copywriting is the activity or occupation of writing the text of advertisements or publicity material.’
I would add that, contrary to editing and proofreading, copywriting relates to crafting words for something from scratch. I think it’s an important distinction as it means that a clear brief and a compelling, strategic purpose are essential. The copywriting process usually includes:
- Clarifying the strategic core (what it is about, who is it for, what is it to achieve and why, how is it different/unique) of a given piece. Typically, briefs are provided by the client, however, the copywriter can also help by asking the right questions. (not included: overall content strategy)
- Researching the respective subject matter and keywords as well as the client’s website and any other information that can aid familiarity with the client’s product and organisation.
- Writing relevant, targeted, simple, consistent copy and in the client’s tone of voice, so that both, users and search engines, may easily find, digest and take action on desired goals. (not included: creating a tone of voice guide)
- Organising content strategically and formatting it consistently, again in order to aid readability and accessibility for both, users and search engines. (not included: creating a style guide)
“Good writing isn’t about spelling or grammar, its about structured thinking.” ~ Angus Montgomery
Where my word crafting superpowers come in
Generally, I would like to think that my passion for working with words and my strong belief in the power of (quality) words to effect positive change, are at the core of my superpower. Perhaps my journey to becoming a professional wordsmith also has its merits, however, to make my word optimising and crafting powers stand out from the crowd of talented copywriters, editors and proofreaders, here are some qualities and added values I bring to the table:
- Eagle eyes – I have a very keen eye for detail and have been recognised for my ability to spot spelling and grammar mistakes, typos and inconsistencies, often quickly and in seemingly trivial places.
- Simplicity enthusiast – I love simplifying (structurally, or also in terms of terminology, flow and consistency) as it can take a message from hibernating to blossoming, from hiding to shining, and from fruitless to profitable and worthwhile.
- Strategic thinker – I have also been known as a strategic thinker, who is always keen to ensure each piece of content has realistic and sustainable goals and a meaningful and compelling purpose.
- Communications and project management qualifications – My degree in corporate communications and education as well as further qualifications in marketing and project management have been highly relevant and totally helpful for my work with words.
- Professional experience and digital expertise – Similarly, my background of managing websites and digital business change programs, and my user-experience design, information architecture and search engine optimisation knowledge have proven extremely valuable.
- Varied hands-on experience – Although my main experience is with web copy and content, I have also edited and proofread printed flyers, letters and magazines. And whilst the majority of my work has been focused on internal and B2B audiences, I have also been involved in external facing communications for the general public.
“The ability to simplify means to eliminate the unnecessary so that the necessary may speak.” ~ Hans Hofmann
What I’m not
- A badass copywriter – I don’t write lead generating killer copy. My focus is on crafting words that attract audiences by creating value for them, and that help my clients to touch hearts, shift perspectives and transform minds.
- A SEO copywriter – I believe that optimising copy and content for search engines follows the same (value-adding) principles as creating it for people. That’s why it’s nothing special or separate, but rather ingrained in (web) copy and content writing.
- A fast writer/editor/proofreader – I don’t charge by the speed of my work, and neither by word count, but by a pre-agreed rate, which reflects my experience and knowledge, and the value this adds to the results of a given project.
- A native (English) wordsmith – In light of many writing/editing job adverts explicitly looking for native English speakers, I’ve previously written a post about the vast skillset required of a (good) copywriter and it helped ease any insecurities I might have had about my foreign origin (or accent) to this point. Today, I let my work speak for itself.
- A copywriter – Given the very commercial focus of copywriting I may not even be a copywriter. I definitely prefer content writer and since I’ve written another post to reflect on the differences – and similarities – between copy and content I very often reference copy and content together.
- Perfect – I would never claim perfection on any personal traits and skills, however, especially when it comes to perfecting my word crafting superpower, I always aim for the best result, I follow leading writers and editors on social media, and I always strive to follow the rules and continually learn more and develop my skills … and live by Ann Handley’s 13 writing rules, particularly this one:
“Writing well is part habit, part knowledge of some fundamental rules, and part giving a damn.” ~Ann Handley
Need help with your website, marketing and business words?
I am in my element when I can help small business owners with big-hearted ambitions bring their unique mission and story to life (brand storytelling strategy) and to shine (website content optimisation, copywriting, editing, proofreading). If this sounds like you, I’ll be delighted to hear from you and discuss how we can work together!