In brief: how a professional copyeditor adds value
- Science shows copyediting improves a reader’s perception of professionalism, writing quality, organization, and value.
- Women-identifying readers in particular tend to evaluate a well-copyedited document more favorably.
- Professionalism, structure, and grammatical perfection are the most important value-adds of copyediting in terms of reader perception.
- This holds true for everything from manuscripts to grants.
With an abundance of automatic spellcheckers on the market, many organizations may be tempted to opt out of hiring a professional copyeditor for their documents. Science says they’re making a big mistake.
Research has shown that the work of a professional copyeditor positively impacts readers’ perceptions of quality. A 2015 study found that copyediting positively influences how readers perceive the professionalism, writing quality, organization, and value of news articles (Vultee, 2015). Read on to learn from our very own Lindsay Hartley-Backhouse, Msc, to find out how you can leverage these findings to engage and persuade your readers.
Women prefer good copyediting
The study found that gender plays a strong role in the perceived value of a text – that is, how likely the reader is to pay for access to the piece. Identifying as a woman is a significant predictor of whether the reader sees an improvement in an article’s overall value after improvements from a professional copyeditor, making editing for this audience even more vital.
The copyediting that will change your work
Study participants who agreed with statements such as ‘this story sounds like it was written professionally’ or ‘this is the kind of story I expect from a serious news site’ tended to rate the value of the piece most highly.
Grammar also impacts how readers perceive documents. Appleman and Bolls (2011) demonstrated that grammatical errors increased the reading difficulty of documents, meaning readers needed more time and mental effort to understand the messages behind the text.
The errors also worsened readers’ retention of the material: participants recalled fewer facts from texts with grammatical errors than correct texts despite the fact that they had spent more time reading them. Such errors divert the brain’s energy to processing the mistakes, pulling focus away from the text’s main points.
While such distracting errors make readers work harder to remember less of your message, the worst impact of grammar mistakes is on perceived credibility. Readers considered error-free texts more credible than those with mistakes. This effect is amplified for readers who are familiar with or value good grammar. Simply put, if your target audience frequently reads and values well-written documents, they’re going to notice small errors and evaluate your work less favorably.
Grammar and spelling are essential, but perfect grammar and spelling do not make a perfect document. Optimizing the structure and flow of a report or manuscript is equally important to it being well understood and valued by your audience.
Even the most advanced spelling and grammar checkers can’t tackle structure. And while a human proofreader will limit themselves to fixing grammar and spelling errors, a good professional copyeditor will delve into the content and restructure it where needed, removing the repetitive or irrelevant parts and highlighting the most important aspects. This helps ensure that you get your points across clearly and logically.
A professional copyeditor is important for everything from manuscripts to grants
While the study looked specifically at written journalism, the positive effects of a professional copyeditor extend across media types. Many of the same variables can affect other written documents, ranging from manuscripts to technical reports. In grant writing, for example, errors and non-intuitive organization tend to impact the perceived value of the applicant’s work and, by extension, their chances of getting funded.
You’ve worked long and hard on your document, and you’re nearly ready to send it out into the world. If you could do one more thing to help ensure your investment takes you places, would you do it? The work of a professional copyeditor can be the deciding factor as to whether your document serves your purposes or not. This means not only full grammar and spell-check, but also careful consideration of the structure, flow, and voice of the text. Importantly, copyediting MUST be done by someone who has never read the text before. It’s simply impossible – even for a copyeditor – to copyedit their own work.
Ready for a professional copyeditor?
Thankfully, at Written Progress, we have a team of dedicated copyeditors ready to help you go beyond the automated spellchecker. Get in touch today to see how a professional copyeditor can help you deliver fully optimized documents that will expand your organization’s funding potential, policy influence, reputation, and influence.