Content versus copy: when writing and editing differ

It’s true; not all writers can edit and not all editors can write, but what are some of the more subtle differences between these jobs? Outside of the marketing sphere, you’ll often hear the words ‘content writing’, ‘copywriting’ and ‘copy editing’ being used interchangeably. However, there are key differences between all three which make them unique jobs.

When looking to hire a freelancer or a new employee, it’s important to know the difference between these skill sets as they can make the difference between spotless work and a sloppy mess. You’re going to need writers and editors – so here are the roles of each.

Content writing

Content writing involves creating written content for websites, blogs, reports, video scripts, social media posts and presentations. The content has value in itself (i.e. it has its own value proposition). Content writing builds audiences through content that is valuable.

The aim is to create content that is shareable and that encourages the audience to engage with it – it is more than just a simple product promotion. Content marketing is based on the premise of content writing.

Although writers can do both content writing and copywriting, they are still unique skillsets. Content writing is all about finding a story angle that can deliver value – it is less about the product promotion. Content writers create stories that linger and resonate with an audience, building trust and healthy engagement at the same time.


Copywriting involves written scripts for television, radio, print advertising, marketing emails, billboard advertising and brochures. The idea behind copywriting is to encourage the viewer to make the best decision about a product or brand. The main aim is to get the viewer to take action, such as visiting a store, giving a donation or making a purchase.

Copywriting is more than just putting the right words on paper – a good copywriter needs to think, research, brainstorm, feel and experience the product or brand so that they can communicate a message that truly resonates with the customer.

For companies looking for copywriters, don’t just find one that can put words down effortlessly and make your offering sound inviting. Find a copywriter that questions you, challenges your brand, talks to employees and customers, and tries the product themselves. This research will help their resulting words and they will be an advocate for your brand.

Content editing

Content editing involves managing the output of a publication, blog or website. A content editor oversees the content calendar and generally manages a team of writers and their work. A content editor acts as the quality assurance for a brand, making sure that the work is true, fact-checked and grammatically correct.

A content editor thinks macro – instead of focusing solely on the article in front of them, they think about how it fits into the company’s overall body of work and how it can contribute to the greater cause. They edit individual pieces to ensure that it fits the brand’s voice and position, but they also make sure it adds to the company’s goals.

In a small business, the content editor can also be a content writer, but in larger companies, these are usually two different job functions.

Copy editing

Copy editing involves proofreading, fact-checking, spelling and grammar corrections, altering sentence structures and ensuring the copy flows nicely. Copy editing is an important step in any marketing, publishing, journalistic and advertising activity. Copy editors often think micro – focussing on the article in front of them.

Copy editors make changes according to a company’s style guide. This ensures that all written work that emanates from that company has the same style, tone and structure. Good copy editors are naturals – they are born with a knack for language and linguistics, which is why they are often called ‘Grammar Nazis’.

The often pick out grammatical errors in their everyday surroundings, not just at work. They have a keen eye for detail and their work is vital to ensure that a writer’s article reads well. They make editorial suggestions that the writer can agree with – neither should act independently on a body of work.

This results in high-quality work that gets your audience to trust your brand. If a business can’t spell correctly, why would you buy their product? Copy editors need to work well under pressure as they are usually the last defence before the deadline.

Now you know the difference between content writers, copywriters, content editors and copy editors. You can use this knowledge when hiring your next freelancer or full-time employee, and ensure that they have the right skills and mindset for your specific needs. It will also help you advertise for the right position and narrow the focus of your applicants from the outset.


Sorted Design Agency is a creative company that constantly looks for solutions to other people’s problems. These problems come mostly in the visual format, such as graphic design, logo and illustration, but we’re experts in brand development, webtuistes, and digital SEO campaigns as well.


Based in Pretoria and Cape Town, Sorted has been in the content marketing industry since 2006. We assist your company with its corporate identity by communicating core values through content and articles written for your website, blog and news area. This content is supported by AdWords and social advertising, which facilitates wider reach and audience growth. Turn your website into a business tool.


Sorted also owns two other businesses; InkFish Print Studio – a printing company that handles a range of promotional materials for businesses and other services for individual customers, and Pampiri + Kie – a gifts and stationery store selling online and in-store. Both of these companies operate from Cape Town and Pretoria.


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