You spent a lot of time writing (and rewriting) that article, blog post, annual report, or whatever else you wrote. So before you release it to the world, share it with a good copy editor. Their input can go a long way toward improving what may already be a pretty fine piece.
A copy editor will catch more than typos.
A cursory proofreading by your cube-mate will probably catch most typos and other glaring errors. But a thorough review by a copy editor will catch subtler shortcomings like mismatched verb tenses, run-on sentences, punctuation misuse, and inconsistencies in person, structure, and tone — all of which can make your writing seem unprofessional and sloppy.
A copy editor can help you more successfully relay your message.
You’re the expert in what you’re writing about, so your content is probably excellent. Its presentation, however, might be a different story. The language may be too technical and esoteric. Prose that is crystal clear to you might be better received and understood by your reader if it’s presented as a chart or a table. Details you deem absolutely necessary might be less important to your reader, and could be eliminated without harm.
Because copy editors read your writing from a fresh and different perspective (i.e., not yours), they readily pick up on (or stumble over) obstacles that could prevent other readers from understanding the information you intend to deliver. Your editor should alert you to any concerns, and work with you to craft a rewrite that works for you and your reader.
A copy editor can make you a better writer.
Each time your copy editor calls your attention to something — typos, errors, inconsistencies, questionable style decisions, and awkward or inappropriate usage — you’re acquiring knowledge. Try to remember it and incorporate it the next time you write. Before long, you just might notice that your editor is making fewer changes to your writing.
(Bonus!) A copy editor might save you money.
The discussions about whether or not to use the Oxford comma may never end, but an astute copy editor might have questioned its absence in a document that ended up costing a Maine company $5 million.
Copy editors don’t want to change your writing just for the sake of change; they want to help you make it the best it can be. Find a copy editor you enjoy working with, and establish a partnership. Build enough time into a project’s schedule to allow for thorough editing. Expect considerable back-and-forth discussion as you develop trust and figure out how to work together. Ask questions, request explanations, and encourage open communication with your editor. You’ll be rewarded with a trusted resource who can keep you out of communications trouble, and who can help you become a better writer.
John Beaupré, senior copywriter, has been writing advertising and marketing copy for more than 20 years and he’s still not done.