By Kate Uhry
I’ve always loved the written word and consider myself to be someone who writes easily, if not well. Then I joined SmartBug™, and, for the first time since college, all of my writing was critiqued by a band of grammar-crazy, Oxford-comma-loving editors. They’ve made me nuts. They’ve made me go “huh?” They’ve made me a much better writer. Read on to find out why you should always have a copyeditor on your own writing team.
Three Ways Copyeditors Improve Your Writing
A good copyeditor does a few key things when they edit your work. They correct your grammar, check for accuracy, and will rephrase sentences so that the meaning is crystal clear. They also walk the fine line between making your work better and leaving your voice alone. A good copyeditor isn’t just fixing your mistakes—they’re taking what you write, leaving the ideas in place, and fine tuning the words so that the meaning is more clear to your audience.
Here’s an example:
When a puppy bonds with his/her master, they form a bond that hands-down is more strong than any relations between a cat and owner.
Here’s the edited version:
When a puppy bonds with its master, the bond formed is hands down stronger than the bond between a cat and its owner.
The Grammar Police
Do you know what the Oxford comma is? Do you know whether there should be an “a” or an “an” in front of the word “S2P”? Our copyeditors do. These are honest-to-God excerpts from our internal copyeditor’s chat:
Reasons to love the Oxford comma: “I owe it all to my parents, Mother Teresa and the Pope."
Editor 1: Pro tip: Compliancy is a word. But just no.
Editor 2: Agreed, compliancy should be no one’s preferency
Okay editors … am I mad or are the terms “webpages” and “website pages” completely unnecessary if the context of the blog article or sentence is talking about a website?
Like, if you’re talking about pop-up forms, obviously it’s on a website page. So why not just say page?
Editors typically follow a set of writing and grammar rules called a style guide. Many companies are loyalists of either The Associated Press or the Chicago Manual of Style (CMOS), but here at SmartBug, we use a mashup of the two. In fact, one of our senior copywriters just wrote a blog article on how and why we created one, as well as how it contributes to our organizational success.
The point is this: By having a copyeditor on hand to enforce all of these rules, your writing will be grammatically correct. Why is grammar important? A grammatically incorrect piece of writing stands out like a wrong note in an orchestral performance. A savvy reader instantly knows when something is wrong with your writing, which makes the reader think about how the article or email has been written instead of what you’re saying.
If you want to take it one step further, you could also argue that a poorly written piece of content can call into question the level of competence and professionalism of your company. If you can’t be bothered to have correct grammar, what does that say about how much you care about your products or services? Ultimately, it might lower reader trust in you.
Why Accuracy Is Important
Fact checking is another way that copyeditors keep content clean and accurate. Copyeditors make sure all facts, figures, data, quotes, and links are correct, so if. a blog article says, “58 percent of people love red pens” and links out to a source, the copyeditor will check the source to make sure that both the 58 percent figure and the red pen specifications are accurate. If the number is actually 56 percent and it’s blue pens, the copyeditor will adjust the data accordingly.
A good copyeditor will also ensure that your citations come from the most up-to-date sources. For example, let’s say your source of the red pen data is from a survey conducted five years ago. In some situations, that might be okay, and it’s the most current statistic for that particular fact. But let’s say the survey is performed yearly, and actually this year only 32 percent of people love red pens. A good copyeditor will note that fact and adjust your data so your readers have the most up-to-date and accurate information possible.
Making Your Writing Better
Finally, a copyeditor will make your writing better. They aren’t just going into your content like a red-pen wielding English teacher (but they should). If they’re good, your copyeditor will be thinking about your sentences and how to make them more clear and thoughtful— all without losing the voice, tone, or meaning of your writing. Here’s a good example.
The copyeditor’s suggestion in the box to the right takes what is a perfectly fine sentence and makes it much more clear.
Here’s another section from the same blog
In this example, a simple sentence restructuring makes it flow better.
Now, I know Grammarly is a good thing; it does a great job of making sure your writing is correct, but it is not without its imperfections. Perhaps I’m old school, but I have yet to find a piece of technology that trumps the value of a human in this case. Copyeditors, although somewhat subjective and annoyingly detail-oriented, are really critical thinkers when it comes to your writing. They aren’t just correcting your spelling or your sentence structure—a good copyeditor will make your writing better. For any company that is blogging or creating content on a regular basis, hiring a full-time or freelance copyeditor, in my opinion, is worth the investment.