Who Do I Hire — Writer, Editor, or Proofreader?

About six years ago, I needed someone to proof my book before self-publishing.

“I need an editor,” I said, probably on Facebook.

“A developmental editor or a copy editor?”

“Uhhh…”

I started googling.

For a profession that’s meant to clarify language, the title “editor” can be pretty unclear. It can mean different things in different situations — and when you need one, it pays to know exactly who it is you need to hire.

Cat sitting on homework
That’s not helping. Photo via Doug McCaughan on flickr

Shaping the Message

At a newspaper, it’s an editor. They assign story ideas, shape stories in progress, and cut what’s not working.

In small business, this is usually a content strategist. They’ll help you decide what kind of content you need, and can often coordinate creating it.

Shaping the Language

You have some content, but it’s rough around the edges. Your message not be clear, or it’s not creating the right impact as written.

At a newspaper, an associate editor might help shape stories after the writer has turned them in, making notes and asking for rewrites. They might rewrite sections themselves and write the headlines.

In business, a copywriter or editor will help you tighten up your content and make sure it appeals to your target market. They might include proofreading as well, depending on the project.

(Hey, this is a service I provide! If you need ongoing help with editing blogs and newsletters, let’s talk. I have room to take one or two new ongoing clients.)

Polishing the Finished Product

Once you’re sure your content is the right message, written in an effective way, it’s best to make sure all your grammar and usage is on point.

At a newspaper, this job is done by a copy editor or proofreader.

In business, this is done by a proofreader (though, as above, it might be included in a copy editing package). I don’t take projects that only include proofreading, but I have some wonderful proofers I work with who I’d be glad to refer you to.


Make sense? Feel free to check in with me if you have questions about any of this stuff. Don’t even feel bad if you end up hiring someone else — I’m glad to help you find someone who’s the perfect fit.


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