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My client is selling a medical product with specialized text specific to her industry. She had provided me with features and benefits. There were about 10 items. When she received the graphics she said she had expected me to edit the text down and do something graphic with it.

But I don’t know her industry enough to remove a feature or benefit and edit the text, making editorial decisions for her. She was offended and said it was my job to edit it. In our contract I do not mention edit her text. But in several emails I ask for her to send me the text “as she’d want it to appear.”

Because she is paying me for three months work, she believes I should be a copywriter. Going forward, what should I say to her in an email?

4 Answers 4

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Sounds a bit fishy, but since apparently there's a contract between you, I'd say stick to what you're supposed to deliver as per the contract. Respond with a reminder of what your services are and suggest alternatives for the copywriting part (eg. budget increase for a third party copywriter).

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"All errors will be faithfully reproduced," appears over my desk.

You are not a copy writer, unless you are. There are different kinds of "editing," to confuse the issue.

As the graphic designer in a specialized field, you may be, or soon to be, familiar with the terminology enough to do what your client expects of you. That may not be the case for any one of a number of reasons now. That expected increased level of expertise usually comes at a premium.

Let's step back a bit and look for a more appropriate way to describe what is wanted/needed/required. I think the issue is fuzzy. Normally, I would suggest using place-holder text (greeking) for the look-and-feel of a layout pending approval of final copy writing. If the layout and copy don't match, I'm obliged to submit a new/updated layout to accommodate the provided copy. Sometimes, the copy is edited to fit the layout. This time-saver usually costs more time and causes more trouble than any saving.

As the graphic designer — I take responsibility for the original design or concept development for the layout.

Publishing — I take responsibility for incorporating correct, approved, formatted text and graphics into polished, effective layouts using publication software.

Straight Proofreading — I will compare two versions of a document to catch typographical errors and deviations from format instructions, questioning blatant errors and inconsistencies.

Editorial Proofreading — Proofreading by looking at only one version of a document; a step between proofreading and copyediting. Checking for typos, consistency of style and format, basic grammar, internal agreement, and overall sense — not including rewriting.

Copyediting — Reviewing a manuscript for spelling, grammar, consistency of style and format. May include. checking completeness, accuracy, and format of tables, bibliographies, and footnotes — not including rewriting.

Substantive Editing — Rewriting, reorganizing, and reviewing content for accuracy and logic; ensuring proper tone and approach for intended audience.

Writing — Producing a manuscript by working from supplied materials, conducting research or interviews; planing; preparing outlines, drafts, and summaries; attending meetings; consulting; and making revisions.

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    Note that there is no harm in hiring a subcontractor to do copy-editing/editing, so long as it doesn't run afoul of the wording of the contract, and you allow for that fee in your billing.
    – Yorik
    Jul 5, 2018 at 15:45
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    Having worked on both the agency and print production sides of the pharma industry, copywriting/editing was responsible for the text content of the piece. Design was responsible for the layout and graphics.Always providing copy proofs along the way for the client to sign off on. Nowhere in the process was a designer ever responsible for content especially in pharma. A wrong word or phrase used could generate massive lawsuits from competitors and penalties from industry compliance orgs.
    – JeffK
    Feb 10, 2023 at 21:34
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Nnnyes - editing text is part of design process but (from my experience) only when you are using some kind of premade layout with strict rules. Like for example in text boxes you can only fit 2k characters and you have 2,5.

BUT

It shouldn't be your, graphic designer, role. You should provide return information about how many character should be cut out.

Again, from my experience, I usually remodel the page to fit whole text provided (kerning, smaller font, expand text box) and provide around 2-4 solutions for the amount I have to work with. Client either stick with one of them or realise it looks bad and rework the text.

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Editing is different from copywriting. Graphic designers are trained in typography. We work with text all the time and it is a requirement to be proficient in writing, grammar, and comprehension.

I subscribe to the belief that a high-level designer is more valuable and can charge more if they are supporting their clients with minor editing services.

However, a junior or intermediate-level designer is likely not experienced enough to be pointing out spelling, grammar, better sentence or paragraph writing, inconsistencies, or identifying key messages. And no designer should be supporting or making edits to text if their first language is not English.

If you went to a legit design school you know that the first thing we do as part of our process before design, is edit the text in a text editor for hidden characters, inconsistencies, and errors such as and em-dash when it should be an en-dash.

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    Hi. Welcome to GDSE. Sorry, but I don't think this answers the question. Perhaps you should read it again. The question asks about editing text containing specialist language for the medical products industry, which is fraught with potential legal dangers for the medically untrained. Some graphic designers may indeed be trained or have experience in the industry, but this is a specialist field. Also medically trained copywriters exist for this specific purpose. This is not your typical ordinary/everyday kind of editing.
    – Billy Kerr
    Feb 11, 2023 at 11:51

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