Judging the Fit of a Copy Editor
Smart businesses seek out the services of a copy editor because everyone in a company can use a second set of eyes.
Yes, you want to avoid embarrassing mistakes, but that’s more the job of a proofreader (we do that too, by the way). A copy editor will make sure you’re conveying what you think you’re conveying, and that you’re doing it in the best way possible.
The relationship between a creator and a copy editor is an interesting one. As the creator (that is, the writer of the piece in question, be it a report, a pitch, a website, an email or a tweet), you should expect the copy editor to:
- understand you, how you speak and (more importantly) how you don’t.
- understand your subject matter and your message.
- understand your audience and the kind of language that would resonate with them.
But also important is the copy editor’s understanding of how you like to work.
We talked about the objective basics of feedback in a previous post, but we didn’t touch on the subjective aspect of it, which we deem as the fit.
When you’re looking for a copy editor that fits your organization, it’s important to consider their feedback style, their adherence to the rules and if you genuinely like working with them.
Let’s look at all three in more depth.
A copy editor’s tone
As we built our team of copy editors, we paid close attention to tone. And tone, according to this excellent piece from Psychology today, can convey more than the content itself.
For example, one of our editors has zero flower to her comments. When you read her notes (if she bothers to add notes at all), they’re almost robotic. And the clients she works with appreciate this lack of candour. They’re not interested in learning how to improve or in even considering the extra effort required. They want their copy fixed. No more, no less.
Another editor we have is exactly the opposite. You smile when you read her notes. You feel like you’re being helped versus being corrected. And you come away learning something new about being a better communicator every time.
Neither approach is right or wrong. And neither implies that the copy editor doesn’t care. Both our “robotic” and our “conversational” copy editors are militant about effective communication — they simply have different ways of expressing it.
A copy editor’s adherence to convention
We have an internal style that we’ve built over 10 years and continue to build. Some of our copy editors follow it like the bible. In their eyes, there’s never a reason to break the conventions. This isn’t to say that the client has to accept all the changes and recommendations, but our “stickler” editors don’t feel they’d be doing their jobs properly if they didn’t call out these broken rules. The clients they work with appreciate this exhaustiveness because they see quality writing as writing following the rules.
Other clients prefer a copy editor who knows the rules and has it in them to break said rules in the interests of impact. To these editors, words like “ain’t” are fine as long as the context and the type of client they’re working with warrants such words.
A copy editor’s personality
This is probably the most critical aspect. Because the more content you produce, the more interaction you’ll have with them.
We encourage you to take the time to find a good fit for you and your company. And, of course, we encourage you to consider us. We’re obviously great copy editors, and we’re good people too.