Writer Vs. Editor: What's the Difference?

Mar 05, 2020

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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  • 0:05 Similarities and Differences
  • 1:06 Writers
  • 1:43 Types of Writers
  • 2:34 Editors
  • 3:09 Types of Editors
  • 3:46 Salary Differences

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To understand the key differences between a writer and an editor, it is important to examine both careers separately. Including the different types of writers and editors and their individual salary expectations.

Similarities and Differences

Written content requires the work of both writers and editors. Writers research and then create material for various publications and platforms, while editors take a broader approach, reviewing and guiding the work of writers to create a more cohesive whole. Details about different types of writers and editors follow, along with salary information.

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 who don't hold a degree 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, and those who work for news organizations 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.


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 2018, writers and authors earned a median annual wage of $62,170. The highest paying industry was independent artists, writers, and performers. Workers employed in this field made an average annual salary of $104,450.

Editors earned a median yearly wage of $59,480. The top paying industry for editors was pharmaceutical and medicine manufacturing. Editors in these organizations earned an average annual salary of $101,210.

With training in English, journalism or communications, writers and editors work together to create written content for publications, websites and books. Through research and personal experience, writers create the written content, while editors correct writers' work for mistakes, provide assignments and give feedback that will result in the best overall product.

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