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The Copy Editor Great Power, Great Responsibility
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A copy editor is a very important part of the content process. This individual helps to make sure that all copy created is fit to print. But with this kind of power also comes great responsibility. Here are the important elements of using that power correctly.
One of the important aspects of an editing position is to make sure that the content is appropriate for where it is being published. A press release, blog post, website page, and e-zine article all have different styles. If content is created for a blog post it will not be suitable as a press release. The structure of a press release is not suitable for a webpage.
When editors are reviewing content, they need to know where it will be published. This way, they can make sure that the style is suitable. There are also different grammar rules and jargon used for different styles of content. A blog post has a relaxed style, almost like a conversation between the writer and the reader. A website page is more of an advertisement, and the language used is often more emotional. With advertising, passive voice is not suitable, where it is acceptable in other forms of content.
Another aspect that the editor needs to review when inspecting a document is the intent. What is the goal of the writer when he or she crafted the piece? The goal should be obvious when the content is read. If the editor can't to determine what the goal of the content is supposed to be there is no way that the reader will be able to decipher the intent.
Just as the editor should be informed on where the content is supposed to be published, he or she should also be notified of the objective behind the content. This way, if the writers should fall short in explaining their goal in their writing, the editor knows where the writer may have gone wrong and either helps them fix it, or sends it back with adequate notes to help the writer fix the problem. Make sure if this is the reason for the rewrite that the editor is clear with what is missing and what needs to be in place in order to make the intent clear.
Another important aspect of a copy editor's job is consistency. In order for a company to create brand recognition all of its communications with the market need to have a certain consistent tone. Branding includes colors, logos, personality, and style. When a reader sees content he or she should be able to instantly recognize it as belonging to a specific company.
When it comes to written content, that consistency includes style. Style doesn't have to mean the formal versions used by print media, such as APA and Chicago Manual. They can also be a style bible the company created of its own. In terms of writing content on the website, this can include the difference between using numbers such as "4" or spelling out the number each time, like "four". It can also include whether street is abbreviated or spelled out and other aspects of the written language that help convey a specific tone or mood.
Hub Spot's blog is a good example of using a consistent tone and style. Fans of this blog can instantly recognize a post, even if portions of it have been copied and reposted in another location via a blogger using the content for reference. Even guest bloggers use the same tone when writing posts. When a company uses consistency in all of its marketing efforts it helps to improve brand recognition, reputation, and assists with coordinating marketing efforts.
When a copy editor is reading content, he or she needs to have the reader in mind. The writer should also create the piece from this point of view. An editor has the ability to step back and look at content objectively, where a writer can sometimes become attached to their writing and therefore may not see that there are missing certain elements from the reader's point of view.
Editing a document from the point of view of the readers means understanding their level of comprehension about the subject matter. Because writers may have a thorough understanding of the content, they may use phrases and terms that are familiar to them but will not be familiar to the reader. They may also not explain certain elements as completely as the reader will need to understand the content. For example, if you tell a 10-year-old that his shoes are untied, he will know what you mean and will bend down to tie his shoe. However, if you tell a two-year-old that his shoe is untied, he won't understand what you mean or what to do to fix it.
As an editor, make sure that all of the content is written at the level of the reader. You don't want to have text that is too far advanced for the reader or content that seems to insult the reader's intelligence.
Goal is different than intent because goal is the overall purpose of the company when it is marketing its products or services. Intent refers to the subject matter of the one, specific piece of content that the copy editor is reviewing. An organization should have an underlying goal that is consistent with every piece of content it publishes. This helps create and coordinate marketing efforts online and off. Copy editors should have an understanding of the company's overall goal and how the piece of content that they are editing contributes. This helps with consistency, fluency, and establishing a reputation as a thought leader for the organization.
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