The US Department of Labour statistics paint a less-than-rosy picture about the future of high-quality copyediting. They say the number of available jobs in the industry is going to shrink by over three percent between now and 2028. This will represent roughly 3,400 jobs lost.
But a look into the real numbers tells a somewhat different story, which starts with fascinating findings from the American Press Institute. They funded a study into the value of copyediting. Surprise, surprise: content vetted by a copyeditor was found to be more professional, more organized, a better read and more valuable across the board
So, in a time when valuable content is more valuable than ever, the contraction in the industry isn’t leading to less copyediting being done. It’s leading to high-quality copyeditors taking on more work.
The Five Characteristics of High-Quality Copyediting
High-quality copyediting is thorough
It’s more than catching boo-boos. It’s identifying and cutting superfluous language, questioning arguments that don’t hold up as well as they could and ensuring a brand’s voice doesn’t deviate from what makes it unique. Also, it considers the reader, which too many companies can’t do because they’re too close to their messages.
High-quality copyediting is timely but never rushed
Ever seen an art restorer in action, and how meticulous he or she is? They could spend an entire day on an eyebrow or a ray of sun or tree in the background. They have a responsibility to maintain the original’s vision, feeling and brilliance. And they know that speeding through it leads to mistakes made or imperfections missed. Copyeditors have the same responsibility, and it’s an impossible responsibility to meet if you’re watching the clock. A copyeditor who promises speed is not to be trusted. Do it right or do it (and pay for it) twice.
High-quality copyediting is collaborative
Don’t think of your copyeditor as a service provider. Think of them as your second set of eyes when you need them most, and a message dissemination expert you can and should leverage. Your copyeditor should be taking the time to understand your business, your goals, your competitors and your motivations. You should be hearing from them often and you should feel just as comfortable challenging them as they are challenging you.
High-quality copyediting is consistent
Within a piece and across the entire content library, a reader should always feel like what they’re consuming is coming from the same place. This is a challenge for a large corporation or department pumping out a ton of content initially written by different people. A high-quality copyeditor can mold a piece to fit comfortably and naturally within a greater content offering so nothing ever seems out of place.
High-quality copyediting is creative
From grade school to graduate school, we’re all taught to follow a message delivery formula. We’re told to respect the way information is consciously consumed and to understand what gets a brain to move in a certain direction. The problem with this approach is that it discounts the subconscious, which is 30,000 times more powerful. The only way to get past the head and straight to the heart is with creativity that encourages thinking AND feeling. A high-quality copyeditor looks for opportunities in your copy to push through to readers’ subconscious and increase your content’s effectiveness and ROI.
As Demand for High-Quality Copyediting Increases, Patience for Poor Quality is Decreasing
Four million blog posts are published on the Internet every day. If you want to stand out in that crowd, hoping you’re putting your best foot forward isn’t going to cut it. High-quality copyediting removes the guessing. If that’s something you can get behind, add it to your process.
Unless you’ve successfully mastered mind control, effective writing is all you have to drive the behaviour you want. Whether they’re heard or read, they have to be convincing, true and interesting enough to maintain attention. It seems easy enough, but if you think about how many times you say no as a consumer versus how many times you say yes, it’s actually not that easy at all.
Effective writing starts with a reason
It can be anything, as long as it’s single-minded and clear. “The human mind finds it challenging to make sense of more than one concept at a time,” says Ben Dermer, Senior Vice President of Development at Spin Master Toys. He says the idea of developing toys isn’t that different from developing copy. “If it’s super obvious what I want the kid and the parent to get from the toy, it has a much better chance of selling. The toys that try to be everything to everyone are the ones you find in the discount bin.” The same’s true for copy, he says: “Unfocused copy is worse than an unfocused toy because someone’s always going to buy the toy. No one’s ever going to buy from copy that confuses them.”
Effective writing answers this question:
“If you give me what I want, what am I going to give you?” If any part of your writing veers away from this question, it probably doesn’t belong in your piece.
This isn’t limited to selling stuff. The question holds just as true in an email to colleagues, an invitation to your birthday party or a resume. Marla Baum is the Head of People at Freckle IoT, and when she considers candidates, she’s always looking for what they are going to give her beyond their work experience. “I’ll usually skim their work timeline,” she says, “but I pay close attention to the profile or ‘about me’ section. That’s where I find out what and who I’m really getting and what I can really expect.”
And she says she doesn’t have time to sift through lines of jargon to get to the essence of a candidate. “If a candidate (proverbially) sends me around the world to understand who they are and how they can help the company, I’m not the kind of person to go along for the ride. I’ll throw out the resume and move on to the next one.
This leads us to the next characteristic of effective writing, and quite possibly the most important one.
Effective writing is economical
That’s not to say it necessarily has to be short. If your piece is 15,000 words, so be it. But make sure each word is adding value. A few ways to ensure this include:
- Cut out any information your audience already knows. You’re wasting your time and theirs.
- Avoid repeating yourself. It’s not easy when you’re trying to be persuasive, but it usually has the opposite effect because it’s patronizing.
- Use five-cent words over five-dollar words. Big words don’t make you look smart. They just take up space.
- The extra space gives your reader a chance to breathe. And big blocks of text are off-putting.
Effective writing is honest
In 1912, ad agency McCann Erickson opened their doors with the tagline “Truth Well Told.” A few of us have worked there at one point and they live by that mantra. It’s why they’re still in business 108 years later
Notice how “Truth Well Told” starts with truth. No one likes lies, and people don’t forget them. This is important to consider as you answer the question, “If you give me what I want, what am I going to give you?” Make sure you can deliver what you say you can.
Effective writing is proofed
The fastest way to turn off a reader is to demonstrate that their time is more valuable than yours. If you’re not willing to take the time to review your message before putting it out there, why should they take the time to consume it?
Effective writing ends on a high note
Be funny or hopeful or caring or aspirational. Because last impressions are just as important as first ones, and if you can leave people smiling, they’re much more likely to come back.