What is editing?


What is editing?

December 2018

Editing is the process of correcting, rewording or finalising information before publication. This skill is appreciated by anyone who has ever read and enjoyed a book, magazine or other printed material. These days the practice extends into film, TV, radio and, of course, online media. The last of these is viewed by many as the biggest shakeup this time-honoured skill has ever faced.

You don’t have to read many e-books to find examples of sloppy editing. While poor proofreading is responsible for minor errors such as letters missing from words or words like ‘the’ missing from sentences, content that has not been edited effectively – or at all – can expose you to a complete loss of face (and profits).

What makes a good editor?

Editors certainly need to have an excellent grasp of the language they are editing – quite often this will be their native tongue, but there is also a demand for bilingual editors. See our blog on translation and localisation.

Substantive editing

Routinely, an editor will be looking to ensure that the sentence structure flows well, the paragraphs break in the correct place, the language and style of writing are appropriate for the readership, and the information included meets the requirements of the client brief and will be understood by the audience. This process is referred to as ‘substantive editing’.

Mechanical editing

‘Mechanical editing’ requires the editor to check the formatting of the document and, depending on the complexity, might include checking that the chapters, page numbers, indices and appendices are chronological.

Crucially, a good editor will ‘sense check’ the content. How well this is achieved depends on the experience of the editor, but it also relies on their intuition – does the content look and feel right? – and their knowledge of the subject – does this statement ring true?

What does a marketing editor do?

Among other seismic changes, the digital age has cast into the spotlight the role of the marketing editor. Since it became widely accepted that Bill Gates was right and “content is king”, online has duly surpassed traditional marketing activities to become the key promotional channel. This shift places increasing demands on marketers to fulfil the tireless demands of the search engines for quality content. As the job title suggests, the marketing editor’s task combines the tried and tested skills of the classically trained editor – whose concern is all things grammar, punctuation and syntax – with the strategic insight of the marketing manager.

Marketing editing versus print editing

Some of the parallels between editing book manuscripts and editing marketing information are easy to draw. Printed marketing materials, such as retail point of sale (POS) and brochures selling high-end goods are subject to the same rigours as printed books because that is what we as consumers have come to expect.

To a certain extent, the marketing editor is imagining themselves in the persona of the target audience receiving the marketing content much as the book editor attempts to read the manuscript through the eyes of the reader. But here the two diverge.

While the book editor is editing the finished output – the book (much as the film or TV programme is to the film or TV editor), the marketing editor is not (usually) editing the end-product. Instead, they are editing the content – printed or digital – that aims to persuade people to make a purchasing decision.

This task requires the marketing editor to have knowledge of the organisation, product or service promoted in the content; the messages to be conveyed; the likes and dislikes of the audience who will be reading the content. They also require an understanding of the mechanics of the marketing content being edited: online content should be optimised for search engines, email campaigns need to attract click-throughs, brochures must be a page-turner and so on.

What about Copestone’s editors?

Here at Copestone, we specialise in writing, editing, proofreading and delivering marketing content for business-to-business and high-end/niche/retail business-to-consumer audiences. Typically, this work requires our editors (often me) to scrutinise copy that we have written for websites, social media content, blogs, whitepapers, case studies, brochures, POS, adverts, exhibition signage and press releases.

Additionally, we help our clients produce quality presentations, strategy documents, bid boilerplates, proposal templates and internal communications. In fact, I would go as far as to say that we will happily consider writing and perfecting any type of content for business use.

As they say (or ought to say) a marketing editor’s work is never done.

If you enjoyed this blog, have a look at the other two in this three-part ‘what is’ series on copywriting, editing and proofreading. Find us on LinkedInFacebook and Twitter and receive notification of our next blog.


What can we do for you?

For a no obligation discussion about how we can help you meet your marketing and communication objectives call or email us.

+44 (0) 20 7100 4460 mail@copestone.uk.com

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