Copywriter vs. Copy Editor: What’s the Difference?

Though they aren’t the names on the spines of the books in your library, copywriters and copy editors form the core of the commercial writing profession. Students interested in the field may be confused about the two careers. Copywriter vs. copy editor: What exactly is the difference?

A copywriter at work.

What Does a Copywriter Do?

Copywriters dedicate themselves to attracting readers. Through well-crafted copy, copywriters can help a business sell a product or educate a consumer on a particular subject. They may work for advertising or web content agencies, possibly brainstorming advertising ideas or creating storyboards for visual media, or within companies managing social media accounts or crafting blog posts. Copywriters turn the messages that companies want to express into compelling writing.

Depending on what sort of employment they seek, copywriters can contribute to a wide range of industries. Freelance copywriters work on projects for individual clients, while full-time copywriters are employed by companies or agencies. While some assume that copywriting is restricted to sales material, the reality is quite different. Businesses do use copywriters to create marketing materials, but as content production spreads across various fields, the job has evolved in scope. Copywriters work with publishers, craft reports for consultancies, and write content for websites, among other things.

Using November 2019 data, PayScale reports that copywriters make a median annual salary of around $51,000, with the top 10% of earners making up to $74,000 per year. Projections from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) show little or no expected change in the employment of writers between 2018 and 2028,  while opportunities for writers with web experience are expected to rise, those in traditional media such as newspapers and periodicals are expected to decline.

What Does a Copy Editor Do?

Copy editors review the text that writers produce to correct errors in grammar, punctuation, and spelling. Additionally, copy editors ensure that content follows style rules put in place by their employer to express an intended tone. Some copy editors are also required to do fact-checking or proofreading. Successful writing should not only be free of errors but should flow smoothly and be consistent in tone and message throughout.

Copy editors sometimes begin their careers as copywriters. In addition to being strong writers, successful copy editors will have strong project and people management skills. Like copywriters, a copy editor may work as a freelancer, or maybe directly employed by a company or agency.

PayScale reports that as of November 2019, copy editors made a median annual salary of around $46,500, with the top 10% of earners making $72,000 annually.

Copywriter vs. Copy Editor: How Do They Differ?

Copywriters use language to get a message across creatively and persuasively. They give an article or piece of advertising copy shape and build a logical argument. Copy editors then correct inaccuracies, discrepancies, and errors, and tune the piece until it is polished and ready for its intended audience.

Copywriting and copy editing are inextricably connected. Copywriters can produce a lot of content in a short space of time, but that content may not hit the mark accurately. Copy editors, due to their experience, can immediately spot where text needs to be tightened or removed altogether. But copy editors also work on many other types of writing as well, including book manuscripts, business reports, and magazine articles. As in all editing professions, copy editors work to ensure the quality of the final product.

What You Need to Enter the Field

Writing may seem like a simple field to excel in, but competition is fierce, and good writing is only part of the formula. Successfully embarking on a career as a copywriter or copy editor requires writing skills such as those gained in specialized degree programs. The Maryville University online Bachelor of Arts in English offers a basis from which a graduate can grow toward being a skilled copywriter or a professional copy editor. Coursework includes:

  • Writing Across the Disciplines: Two courses cover how writers can cross disciplines, including both analytical and rhetorical writing.
  • Minority Voices in American Literature: This course promotes diversity by educating students about traditionally underrepresented work.
  • English Literature: Fiction in all its forms offers insight into the human condition. These courses give students a firm grounding in the classical and contemporary works that shape the world around them.
  • Creative Writing: This course teaches students the primary forms and techniques of creative writing.

A degree in English allows students to enhance their knowledge and hone their craft within a supportive environment. After developing these skills in a program like Maryville’s, a career in writing or editing could be the next step.

A Creative Career in Content

Writers and editors use their language skills to communicate and connect with readers of all types. Without the limitations of more traditional careers, freelance writers and copy editors can often define their own working circumstances, gaining freedom from the constraints of time and location. Explore the Maryville University online Bachelor of Arts in English to discover a path to a creative, inspired career.

Recommended Reading:
How Technological Advancements Will Shape the Future of Journalism

The Bureau of Labor Statistics, Editors

The Bureau of Labor Statistics, Writers and Authors

LinkedIn, “Copywriting vs. Copy-Editing vs. Proofreading”

Maryville University, Online Bachelor of Arts in English

Mediabistro, “What Does a Copy Editor Do?”

Mediabistro, “What Does a Copywriter Do?”

The Nest, “Copywriter vs. Copy Editor”

PayScale, Average Copy Editor Salary

PayScale, Average Copywriter Salary

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