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Can you be both a copy editor and a content editor?

Rather than being one or the other, I'm wondering if you can be both. I'm aware that each type of editor has a different skill set; however, I love the idea of doing both types of editing and I wouldn't want to limit myself to one type. Plus, wouldn't the flexibility of being able to do either type of editing be an advantage career-wise?
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Dear Catherine, as you get more experience you can become both. And by having both experiences as a copy and content editor you will be able to get more jobs. Christi W.

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Elena’s Answer

Absolutely. I'm a copy editor and an author of both nonfiction and nonfiction books (under a pseudonym), and in the past I've done content editing and developmental editing and been a managing editor. I've found it helpful when applying for jobs--or better yet, researching companies/people that seem like they could use my services and reaching out to them directly even though no job has been posted, because then you're not competing with a thousand other applicants--to tailor each resume and cover letter to highlight which skill set applies to the job or opportunity I'm pitching. Extra work but makes all the difference.

Elena recommends the following next steps:

Take the online copy editing class at the University of California Berkeley extension program, so you can learn the skills and have the certification to put on your resume.

Thank you very much for your response! This was very helpful and encouraging to hear, especially because working as both a copy editor and an author is my ultimate dream. I also loved hearing about your proactive approach to finding work. I have just completed the first internship I applied for and my hiring manager specifically told me she was impressed by the fact that I tailored my resume for the job and went so far to write a cover letter, so I can definitely agree with you that those are huge selling points in your favor when applying for jobs. Thank you again! Catherine T.

You're very welcome and that's great to hear--best of luck! :) Elena Vega

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William’s Answer

Hi, Catherine. Yes, you can pursue both—sweetening your value to potential clients. As a full-time writer/editor who predates the Internet, I've encountered confusion among clients who actually had no idea that "content" is simply another term for "text." All writing is text; all text is content. Industry standards have expanded to consider "content" the same as subject matter—but it always was.


In today's market, though, it's best to realize that most clients perceive copy- and content-editing as two distinct services. True, there are editors who prefer to work only with subject matter (i.e., content), and another writer here was correct to refer to that discipline as developmental editing: a detailed process for extracting a publishable book from a completed first-draft manuscript that has structural flaws—common to all works, even that of seasoned writers. A competent developmental editor must possess subject expertise, market knowledge (not quite as exacting if the client is self-publishing, but still important), tenacity and tact to hash out solutions when the author's preferences and the market's needs are in conflict.


Hope this response helps, Catherine. However you proceed, may you enjoy success in your ventures!

William recommends the following next steps:

THE book on all matters editorial is WHAT EDITORS DO: THE ART, CRAFT, AND BUSINESS OF BOOK EDITING, edited by Peter Ginna. I reviewed this for NYC's LIBRARY JOURNAL magazine.

I apologize for the belated response, but thank you so much for your comment! This was very insightful. Thank you for your support! Catherine T.

You're welcome, Catherine! William Grabowski

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Elizabeth’s Answer

Yes, you can be both. I've been a developmental editor for 30 years, and I copy edit on the side because it's fun. My career advice would be to focus on becoming a developmental editor because that requires a broader range of skills. At the same time, hone your copy-editing skills because they will help you no matter what career you pursue.

Elizabeth recommends the following next steps:

Read Chicago and AP style guides and learn their quirks and differences

This is the kind of insight I was looking for, thank you so much for your response! Catherine T.

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Allison’s Answer

Depends where you want to work -- at a bigger (or even mid-sized) trade publishing house, you'll need to pursue a path in either the Editorial or Managing/Production Editorial department, so you would need to pick one. As an editor/editorial assistant, you'll work on reading and acquiring manuscripts for publication, editing for content (from broad story suggestions through line-by-line edits), pitching books to other departments, and coordinating with other departments to make decisions about marketing, design, production, copyediting, foreign rights, and sales. As a production editor/production editorial assistant, you'll edit books for grammar, style, and continuity. At my company, we copyedit picture books in-house but farm out novels to freelance copyeditors . But our in-house staff does review many versions of each manuscript throughout the copyediting, proofreading, and design process. The managing editor oversees the book and materials schedules for the whole department.

This said, you could absolutely try internships in both departments and see which you like better!

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Susan E.’s Answer

I don't see a problem of being both. I'm a copy editor and a content writer for a publication I write for and they don't really clash at all. However, you do learn about how to be a better writer and what kind of writing no-nos you shouldn't do that you'll see in other writers.

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Aja’s Answer

I believe the short answer is yes. Often, developmental editing entails both.
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