Copywriter vs Copy Editor: What’s the Difference?

If you’re new to Copywriting Land, you might be wondering what the difference is between a copywriter vs copy editor. I got you!

But first, a disclaimer. For this post, I’m talking about copy editors who work for brands/companies rather than publishing houses or the media. While there’s overlap, a copy editor working for a brand is biased by the fact they work for a company. So that’s a biggie and something you should remember as you read through what I have to say below.

(BTW: Do you learn better by watching a video? Jump to the end for my video on this topic.)

Copywriter vs Copy Editor: One writes the words. The other makes them shine.

As a copywriter, you’re tasked with getting the words down on paper and pixels.

You’ll be writing things like . . .

  • Blog posts
  • White papers
  • Social media posts
  • Website copy
  • Ebooks
  • Video scripts

When it comes to digital marketing, the list is seemingly endless.

A copy editor, on the other hand, will revise a writer’s words for the following:

  • Clarity, quality, and consistency
  • Grammar and punctuation
  • Overall alignment with the brand voice
  • Overall alignment with the brand messaging
  • Alignment with an in-house style guide and other relevant style guides (AP, Chicago, etc.)

Copy editors won’t typically rewrite a piece of content. They’ll lob it back to the writer with their requests for more significant edits.

How they communicate with writers will vary. Some might track their comments in Word. Others might email. Some will get on a call. I find that most copy editors prefer sticking to the source material and making edits and comments on the doc itself.

Copywriter vs Copy Editor: How are they the same? How are they different?

Here are some ways they’re the same:

  • They both care about the final piece.
  • They both care about writing, conveying a message, and communicating clearly.
  • While both tend to be detail-oriented, copy editors will almost always win that battle, hands down. I’m a fast writer. I get things down. Good editing is all about slowing down and taking a breath.

Here are some ways they’re different.

  • Copy editors are usually less concerned with results. The copywriter’s job is to create something that resonates with the target audience and gets them to act. The copy editor’s job is to ensure the message is clear, on brand, and punctuated correctly.
  • Copywriters are usually more familiar with the nuts and bolts of digital marketing. Good copy editors, especially today, must have a basic understanding, but good copywriters must be immersed.

Good editors have a damn fine nose for bullshit.

Copy editors don’t typically fact-check, but this can vary. They might ping the writer if there’s a glaring error—or something that doesn’t make sense. But they’re counting on you, the copywriter, to get the facts right, to use good sources, and to provide proper attribution.

I wouldn’t be surprised if more copy editors run copy through plagiarism checkers. And I won’t be surprised if they soon run copy through AI detectors.

They can’t always prove when a writer makes something up. But they can smell it. There’s a great scene from Season 5 of my all-time favorite show—The Wire—where Gus, the managing editor of a Baltimore newspaper, knows that one of the writers on staff is making stuff up, even though he can’t prove it.

All copywriters need copy editors.

Including me! My copy for clients always has several eyes on it. It might not always be a professional editor, although sometimes it is. Even though I’ve been writing professionally for over twenty years, I still need that gut check, that person who’s a little more objective and can correct my messes and save me from myself.

A good editor-writer relationship can be magical.

An analogy I like to use? Think of a good football coach and quarterback. A coach’s job is to help the QB be the best he can be by leaning into strengths and correcting weaknesses. The editor’s job is to see a writer’s strengths and weaknesses and help the writer adjust for both so the writer can perform their best.

Got a Question for the Copy Bitch?

That’s me! I’m the Copy Bitch. Contact me or visit my YouTube channel and leave a comment on one of my videos. I might make a blog post or video with the answer.