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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Wax On, Wax Off: 8 Final Steps for Polished Website Copy

We’ve worked all the way through research and writing parts of the Website Copy That Converts checklist.

Now we edit and polish.

Today, we’ll talk about a few last steps to make sure your copy is as polished as that agate that’s been through grandma’s tumbler.

Hold on. What are those research and writing phases, Kelley? You wrote about them? Can you just, like, list all those other steps in a convenient list of links that I can peruse?

Sure! Thanks for asking.

Target Pain Points to Make the Sale
Keywords 101
Hey! Grab Attention with Headlines
Create Your Customer Avatar
Lead with Benefits
Wonderful USP: Unique Selling Proposition
Hey “You”—Focus on Customer Needs and Wants
A Clear and Easy Call to Action

Whew! I guess I’ve been busy.

(By the way, you can still grab that checklist by signing up for my email newsletter, you know? Better do it now. I’m working on something new for you.)

Here we go with fine-tuning and editing your website copy.

1) Length: 200-500 words work for most pages

SCIENCE* SAYS 200-500 words is the sweet spot for most pages. That being said, it’s more about quantity than quality, but watch out for going on too long. Cut and tighten where you can.

See a big block of text more than a few lines long? Break it up.

*A few websites that I checked seemed to agree on that.

2) Voice: Does it match your brand? Appeal one-on-one to the ideal client?

When you read back through your website copy, does it feel like you? Does it feel like your brand? Is it speaking directly to one ideal client, or trying a scattershot approach?

You can’t please anyone. Not with a chocolate cake, and not with website copy. If you’re selling chocolate cake, write to the people who really want your chocolate cake in their lives (like me). Don’t try to convince the people who really prefer lemon.

3) Scannable: Good use of headings? Does it need bullet points?

We’ve talked about this: people don’t read.

Your home page is like a resume. What do you want people to take from it if they only spend ten seconds to see if it’s interesting?

Make sure your copy and design work together to make things scannable.

4) Jargon: Edit out industry language your client may not understand.

Know your audience. Does your client know industry terms, and expect you to use them? Do they need a little education before they buy? Or can you just toss the jargon completely?

Using terms your client doesn’t understand is a big-league turnoff.

5) Appearance: Check on laptop, mobile, different browsers.

Your beautiful tagline might get cut off on some screens. When you know that, you can make a decision about whether it’s better to change the tagline, or to deal with it as it is.

Try a simulator to get an idea of how your site looks on different size monitors, tablets, and mobile devices.

6) Consistent message: Read for discrepancies.

This one can be a bit tricky, especially if it takes you weeks, months, or years (I see you out there) to update your website copy.

Is every page a part of the same story? Do you have a tagline or call to action that’s worded a little bit differently on another page? Is there a consistent message throughout?

7) Consistent formatting: Keep a special eye on headings.

Okay, this is a fiddly one, but make sure each page of your website looks like it belongs with the others. We won’t get too deep into design stuff, but keep those headings, fonts, etc., consistent.

8) Proofread: Make sure someone else proofreads your work. Always proofread last.

Yes, even if you are a professional proofreader, because proofreading yourself is extremely hard! Trust me. I am one.

Try not to fuss around with your copy AFTER the proofreading takes place, because that’s where mistakes happen most. That one last-minute tweak always gets me in trouble.

Did I tell you about that time my friend Abbi told me I had a typo in a proofreading offer in my newsletter? Murphy’s Law totally applies.

P.S.—On longform sales pages, add a P.S.

This one is mainly for fun, but… if you’re selling a high-ticket item, you’ll usually have a long sales page (more than 500 words for sure), and there’s usually a P.S. at the end.

People people read them.

WHEW. We have come to the end of the 18 Must-Haves for Website Copy That Converts checklist! Download it if you haven’t already.

Was that a bit much? You know, you can just hire someone to do all this stuff for you.

Like me. Hire me. I write and edit websites for cool people who do cool stuff.

Let’s chat. hello@kelleygardiner.com



Dog with sunglasses, link to email newsletter

Learn to Love the Editing Process

I love editing. So much.

I love to take people’s words and make them gleam; to make slightly technical things fun and easy to read; to reduce redundancies and increase clarity.

But if someone wants to edit MY work?

No way. Those are MY words, and letting go hurts. I don’t even feel comfortable having my husband sit next to me on the couch when I’m writing an email.

It’s scary to hand over your writing to someone else.

Laptop, book and tea

Love the Editing Process

Ready to get help? Grab that red pen by the cap and tell it who’s boss. When you’re hiring an editor, you’re in control: of your words, of your message, and of the process.

The goal is not to make you feel bad. The goal is to make your business more money.

Take comfort in working with a professional.

No, you wouldn’t ask any stranger to look in your mouth to check on your plaque buildup. You ask a dental hygienist. And, okay, even that might be nerve-wracking and weird, especially when you’re seeing someone new. But if they’re nice, the next time isn’t so bad. It might even get to be pleasant.

Like other professionals, we the editors won’t judge you as long as you’re reasonably nice and pay on time. Seriously.

Just because you can edit doesn’t mean you have to. Or should.

A lot of people feel like editing is something they should be able to do themselves. You took English in high school after all. Well, friends, I took economics in high school, but I’m not doing my own taxes. We all have our talents and choose our training accordingly.

Create efficiencies.

Small business owners need to focus on what brings them joy and money. As soon as you have cash flow, you can and should be hiring out tasks. Those are tasks that you don’t want to do (hello, writing). Tasks that keep you from making money. Tasks that you’re not particularly good at. Hire someone at $50 an hour so you can make $200 that hour.

When you have a communications piece that needs to be written or edited, what do you usually do with it? Agonize a little, complain about it to your co-worker, check Facebook, open and close the document? That’s all fine and good—and goodness knows writers do their own share of procrastinating—but wouldn’t it be easier just to send it away to a professional you have a relationship with?

Choose your experience.

Editors have a bunch of tools at their disposal. We can show our work—every deleted comma, every strong verb choice—or not. If this is important to you, let your editor know ahead of time what.

Sometimes you just want a job done and not spend one more brain cell on it. No problem!

Sometimes, you want to be more involved. Great!

Do you need to know how far along we are on a big project on any given day? We can set that up ahead of time.

Work with someone who lifts you up.

Can I tell you a secret? I’ve written for a number of online and print editors.

Some of them just took my work and mangled it without asking. Some just barely communicated at all—the work equivalent of having a grunting teenager in your car. One made me cry regularly.

A few went out of their way to thank me for good work, and to ask politely and clearly when they needed changes. Some are just downright enthusiastic.

Guess which ones I still work with?

Life is short. Hire someone who is a joy to work with. Good editors will improve your business prospects. They might even improve your future writing, and make you feel better along the way.

That’s the goal.

Otter holding hands!!


Looking for a pleasant editing experience? Email hello@kelleygardiner.com

Have you ever been scared to hand off your writing to an editor? Share your pain in the comments.



If you liked that blog post, you would looooove my email newsletter.

It goes out once a month or so, and it’s a short and sweet way to keep up with the latest in business communications.

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Sweet Web Copy for Cherry City Roller Derby

Sometimes you need hard-hitting web copy.

Writing about roller derby? Don’t mind if I do.

If you gave me $100 to come up with a project that was more up my alley than this, I’d have a hard time coming up with something. After all, I literally wrote the book (okay, a book) about roller derby.

Recently, I had the opportunity to work with Upswept Creative on the newly designed Cherry City Roller Derby website by writing and editing the web copy. I cleaned up some copy and wrote some sections from scratch. We collaborated a survey for stakeholders to find out that to include in the new site. They made the site beautiful and functional while I thought about how to communicate with all those people who use the site: skaters, fans, and sponsors.

Screen grab from Cherry City website, web copy writing

Check out Upswept Creative for brand design, rebranding, and website design in Portland, Oregon. They’re good people over there.

Need user-friendly web copy for your tough-as-nails website? Drop me a line.