Writer Vs. Editor: What's the Difference?

While both writers and editors do their share of writing, the day-to-day tasks performed in their jobs differ significantly. Writers develop and research original written material, while editors guide, review and revise content.

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Writers vs. Editors: Overview of Similarities and Differences

Both writers and editors are vital in the creation of written material. A writer is typically charged with the creative task of putting words on a blank page, whether for the purpose of informing, persuading or entertaining. The work of editors may be slightly more analytical, as they must review, manage, and guide a particular work or series of works to successful publication.

Writer and editor jobs usually require at least a bachelor's degree. Suitable degree programs include English, journalism and communications; however, individuals with exceptional writing skills may also be hired, particularly if they have specialized experience in the subject they're writing about.


Writers are the people behind the text for books, periodicals, promotions and online publications, including blogs, informational websites and online newspapers. Writers also create the stories and dialogue for video games, movies, television shows and scripted radio broadcasts.

To make their writing accurate and believable, writers and authors conduct original research through a variety of methods depending on their genre of writing. For example, fiction writers may use observation to research personal interactions, while nonfiction writers typically conduct interviews and research historical books or texts.

Types of Writers

Freelance writers are self-employed writers who sell their work to multiple publications, TV producers, advertising agencies and news organizations under contracts for single projects or recurring assignments. Scriptwriters produce materials for radio, TV, video games and movies; scriptwriters who specialize in movies are screenwriters. Biographers, novelists, songwriters and playwrights are also typically freelancers.

Staff writers are generally employees, often of organizations in the media and publishing industries, where they might be known as reporters, news analysts or correspondents. Copywriters, who prepare advertising and promotional text, may be employed by an ad agency or a corporation's marketing department, or they may be freelancers who work on marketing projects for several clients.

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Editors oversee a publication and its writers. Personnel matters that editors may be responsible for include providing writers with assignments, giving writers feedback on their work and hiring editorial assistants, interns and fact checkers. To manage a book, magazine, journal or other publication, editors plan the content, decide what materials will be used and, in fiction works, review storylines. Editors may also annotate drafts for revision to ensure that grammatical and factual errors are not in the final product.

Types of Editors

Major newspapers and magazines have executive editors, managing editors, assignment editors, assistant editors and copy editors, with increasingly narrow duties. Executive editors supervise offices and determine the content of the publication. Managing editors oversee the daily operations of a particular department or newspaper section, like news or arts. Assignment editors determine which writers cover which stories. Copy editors handle grammatical errors and correct readability issues, as well as confirming that articles meet the requirements outlined in editorial policies.

Salary Differences

Salaries for writers and editors vary and depend on a number of factors, including the industry and experience. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), in May 2014, writers and authors earned a mean annual wage of $67,870, while editors earned a mean yearly wage of $64,140. One of the highest-paying industries for writers during the same year was independent artists, writers, and performers; workers employed in this field made an average salary of $89,170. The top-paying industry for editors was securities and commodities contracts intermediation and brokerage, which paid workers an average annual salary of $89,370 in May 2014.

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