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copywriting terms woman writing on notepad


We speak a language all our own. Diazeugma, Bicapitalization, Feghoot, Grawlix. No, these aren’t spells from Harry Potter. They’re obscure grammar terms…and we know them all.

You don’t need to speak grammar-nerd to work with us, but knowing a few basic terms can help a lot. Having a common language when it comes to needs and expectations can help any project move faster, and result in better work.

So, here are a few copywriting terms to help everyone speak copy.

Term #1: Proofread

If you’re working with a copywriter, you could say: “This is going to the client tomorrow morning, can you read it through and make sure it’s perfect?”

What a copywriter hears: “I need this proofread.”

What that means: When proofing a document, a copywriter will read through with a fine-toothed comb, looking for any misused words, misspellings, or mistakes. Note, that a (good) copywriter will often suggest alternate phrasing or word choice as they proof, but it isn’t required or expected. If you need this, you need to ask for it…and be specific.

Tips for getting what you want: Be prescriptive. If the document has already been read through many times, and the copywriter just needs to add an extra layer of quality control (QC), say that. If the document is likely going to need a lot of changes to get it to “perfect-state,” say that.

Does the client have personal preferences that the copywriter should be aware of? For example, do they prefer certain words over others? Do they hate compound adjectives or dislike hyphenated compounds? Let us know so that we can give you (and your unnecessarily picky client) what you need.

Term #2: Copyedit

If you’re working with a copywriter, you could say: “Can you make this sound better?” or “I think there might be a better way to say this…”

What a copywriter hears: “I need a copyedit.”

What this means: When copyediting a document, a copywriter will look for areas to improve language, and often suggest changes or edits to phrasing and word choice. At its most robust, copyediting could include restructuring a document or rewriting complete paragraphs.

Tips for getting what you want: Copyediting can be a very small, or a very big ask, depending upon how you assign it. Be very precise in what needs to be changed or worked through. Making comments directly in the document can really help us be pointed and purposeful in our review, and work a whole lot faster.

If research or supplementary documentation is needed, provide it! Without the right context, copywriters can often start editing in circles…which is a total waste of time.

Term #3: Content editing

If you’re working with a copywriter, you could say: “The client thinks we need to expand this idea a bit.” or “Can we change X so that it says this instead?”

What a copywriter hears: “I need a content edit.”

What this means: When content editing a document, a copywriter will write or add new information. This will require net-new copy or a rework of the content. It’s very important to understand that a content edit is a much larger ask than a copyedit. In a copyedit, a copywriter simply reworks the words on the page, so the meaning stays the same. In a content edit, a copywriter changes what the document says altogether.

Tips for getting what you want: The most important tip for a content edit is knowing that it will likely take time. Adding new content to an already existing story is difficult, especially if it means recrafting and making significant changes to that story. Have open communication with your copywriter about timeline and calorie spend to make sure that you’re completely aligned.


Also see: The great (Oxford comma) debate

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