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What's the difference between Copywriting, Translation, Editing & Proofreading?

Written by Lerynne Verster.

Copywriting, editing and proofreading - the differencesExpert language and translation services can save you a lot more than just money!

Mistakes caused by poor communication may, at best, give your client a good giggle at your expense. At worst they can make you look inept and cause you to lose money.

When having a document copywritten, translated, edited or proofread, you need to understand what each service entails. There are small variations of definitions for each, depending on the company you're talking to. The most common definitions are explained below.


This involves the unique creation of text for a specific purpose i.e someone writes something specifically for you for your specific purposes.

You may, for example, need the info for your website to be written in a way that appeals to your target client and that enables your website to get a good ranking in the search engines. Or maybe you need an fresh sales letter for your new promotion.

A copywriter is an expert in using language in different ways for different reasons. The way a sales letter is written will be different to the way a company report is written.

A copywriter knows how to use tone, style and sometimes even jargon to best reach your audience. She looks at aspects like terminology relevant to your industry and general aspects such as good grammar, spelling and sentence construction.

A copywriter is also aware of any cultural or gender issues that your target audience may have. She will ensure that your copy is written in a way which is not offensive to people in that group.

While you know your product well, you may present it a way that your clients don't understand. Or maybe they find it confusing. Or they simply don't get excited about doing business with you. Use professional copywriters and make sure that your message comes across the way that you want it to.


Information that is written in one language is rewritten in a different language.

Always use translators who are qualified and experienced and who are aware of the linguistic and cultural nuances of both their source and target languages. This means that your translations will be linguistically correct and culturally acceptable too.

Generally, a good translator translates from his second language into his first language, not the other way around.

Remember that the quality of the original document affects the quality of the final document - especially when it comes to translations. So the better the quality of the original document (in terms of content and language usage) used to translate from, the better the quality of the final translation.

Consistency of terminology and style is ensured by consulting the reference materials you supply. Other aspects to think about include your target audience and translation aims.

Extensive editing

The general structure of the info is improved. This includes aspects such as logical order and easy-to-follow flow of information.

The meaning and aims of the content are clarified. (Any uncertainties in this regard should first be discussed with you.)

Redundancies are removed.

The general style of writing is checked for ease of reading, appropriateness and consistency.

Suggestions are made concerning words or statements that might cause offence to target language speakers.

Sentence structure, grammar, spelling, punctuation, word usage, and stylistic problems are checked and corrected if necessary.

Standard editing

Sentence structure, grammar, spelling, punctuation, word usage, minor structural problems and minor stylistic problems are checked and corrected if necessary.


A proofreader quickly checks work that has already been edited for any remaining typographical, punctuation, formatting, spelling or numbering errors. No changes to content or style are made. This should be done after typesetting and layout.

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