Most people have no idea what I’m talking about when I tell them I’m a copywriter. I often specify by explaining that I’m a business copywriter, but that doesn’t necessarily help if you don’t know what I mean by ‘copy.’
Essentially it’s this: copy is anything that’s written.
Pick up a magazine. Every word was written by a copywriter. The ads? Ad copywriter. The stories? Body copywriter. Any brochures you find at hotels and visitor centers? You guessed it – copywriters.
Like other forms of writing, just because you’re trained in one style of writing doesn’t necessarily mean your talents will automatically translate into copywriting. Journalists and novelists need to learn their craft, and so do copywriters.
Can’t My Designer Just Write the Copy?
Sure. And technically I could design your ad or website for you, but I’m not trained to do it. There are subtleties to the colors, fonts, and spacing that I don’t understand. You’ll get an ad or website from me, but it might not be pretty.
The same is true for having a designer write your copy. They can do it, but just because they can doesn’t mean they should. Writing a blog post isn’t the same as writing a web page, and that’s different from writing a promotional email. If you want engaging copy, you want someone who understands the rules of composition for promotional writing.
So Copy Editors Edit Copy, Right?
Not exactly. This part can confuse people.
Anything written is copy, so technically anyone who edits it is, in fact, editing copy, but the skill of copy editing has a much more specific definition.
Editing can be divided into different levels – substantive, line, and copy edits. From the top down, you can understand editing as:
- Substantive – The big picture edit, this edit looks at the overall theme, inconsistencies, plot holes (in novels), etc.
- Line – After a substantive edit, an actual line-by-line look at your manuscript to suggest ways to write tight, clear up confusions, and make the writing more compelling.
- Copy – The nuts and bolts of the manuscript. After everything else has been cleaned up, the copy editor breaks out the red pen to correct grammar, punctuation, formatting, etc.
So there you have it – copywriting and copy editing in their most basic forms. Stop back in two weeks for a more detailed look at the different levels of editing (including the copy edit).