A guide to help you choose editing as a career
Deciding if you want to pursue editing as a career can be a difficult decision, especially if you don’t know all the inner workings of the profession. This article is about editing as a career—what editing is, what editors do, and how editors get to be editors. Interested in a career as an editor?
What is editing?
Editing means different things to different people, so it is important to note the differences between editing and, for example, proofreading. We define “editing” as making revisions to and suggestions about the content of a document, focusing on improving the accuracy of language, flow, and overall readability, as well as checking for spelling, grammar, clarity, and consistency. “Proofreading,” on the other hand, involves correction rather than revision. It is the process of correcting spelling, grammar, and typographical errors, and is undertaken only after a document has been edited.
Levels of editing
There are different types or levels of editing, and there are as many answers about what each level consists of as there are editors. Because there is considerable overlap, there is no broadly accepted definition for each level. However, editing can be categorized into copyediting, line editing, and substantive or developmental editing.
Copyediting is rule-based and very mechanical. It involves checking a document for spelling, grammar, and punctuation errors, and applying style. Line editing is the process of checking a document line by line, not only for the criteria just mentioned but also for appropriate word choice and phrasing, conciseness, inconsistencies, smooth syntax, and readability. Substantive editing is analysis-based, particularly at the document level. It involves looking at the big picture and examining the organizational structure of a document. This includes determining the correct order of sentences, paragraphs, and chapters; questioning meaning; identifying gaps; ensuring the logical development of ideas and clear connections between those ideas; and ensuring audience appropriateness. These tasks must all be accomplished while retaining the author’s voice. No matter what level of editing you are undertaking, it is important to make several passes. You never know what you might have missed in the first go-around, so a second pass is essential to catch errors you didn’t see the first time and/or errors you may have inadvertently introduced. The ultimate goals are usability and readability.
Becoming an editor
To have a successful career as an editor, you must have an excellent understanding of grammar, strong analytical skills, sound computer skills, a working knowledge of various style guides, good people skills, strong organizational skills, the ability to work under pressure and meet deadlines, and an overwhelming desire to help people communicate as clearly as possible.
There is no single educational or occupational path to becoming an editor, but those who ultimately realize editing as a career tend to have a number of things in common, such as a love of language and reading, attention to detail, the desire to improve communication, and qualification in a subject such as English, journalism, technical communication, or teaching. Due to the increasing use of representational design in developing technical documentation, a background in web design, computer graphics, or other technology field, is also useful. There are a number of educational institutions that offer editing programs, and this kind of academic training is certainly a good place to start. In terms of obtaining a professional designation as an editor, some professional editing associations offer certification, a process that involves testing individuals in the different levels of editing.
Editing as a career
You can work as an editor in many different industries, such as the publishing, education, scientific, and medical fields. Editors can be generalists who deal with a wide variety of subjects or they can be specialists who deal with certain subjects. Editors can work alone or in collaboration with others, such as writers, publishers, or project managers. An editor’s life is never dull. Editing as a career is an educational adventure. You will learn something new every day!
Five easy steps to help you land exciting proofreading jobs
Have you recently wondered how to become a proofreader? Many proofreading jobs are offered both online and offline. However, before discussing the type of work available and how you can land a proofreading job, let’s briefly discuss the definition of a professional proofreader and what the work entails.
Professional proofreader is a generic term for someone who ensures that the final version of any written work is grammatically correct and free of spelling and punctuation errors. Proofreaders check a written text after it has been edited and before it is printed or published, providing a final quality check to make sure that the copy editor didn’t miss anything. A proofreader must be accurate, pay close attention to detail, and be sufficiently self-motivated to meet deadlines. This is a very general definition; there are many different levels of proofreading, just as there are many different fields and industries that offer proofreading jobs.
You do not need any particular qualifications to land a proofreading job. Employers will usually be more interested in your experience than your qualifications. However, proofreaders are often graduates, so it could be an advantage if you have a degree in English or in a subject in which you would like to concentrate your proofreading efforts. For example, a science degree would be useful for proofreading scientific textbooks or manuals.
Technically, a professional proofreader is someone who has taken and passed an approved proofreading course. Many college or online courses are available to give you a leg up on the competition and help you get hired for proofreading jobs.
2. How to Get Started
To begin your search for proofreading jobs, start by sending inquiry letters. Start small, perhaps by contacting local newspapers or classified ad papers. Even though you might consider yourself an expert proofreader, have someone else proofread your letter and resume. Nothing kills your chances of getting a proofreading job faster than a typo on a resume!
If you need to accumulate some experience, look around and offer to do free proofreading for school newsletters or small business web sites. Perhaps your neighborhood association or favorite hobby could open doors to some proofreading experience.
Build and maintain a strong network of colleagues, acquaintances, and friends. You never know who may be able to give you a good lead on a proofreading job.
It might be beneficial to join or obtain certification from a professional body, such as the Editors’ Association of Canada, the American Copy Editors Society, or the UK Society for Editors and Proofreaders (SfEP).
Looking for work has become much easier due to the advent of search engines (which you can set up to alert you automatically when a specific company has openings). You can use both LinkedIn and Twitter to craft the image you wish to project (truthfully, of course!). There are quite a few LinkedIn groups that specialize in different types of editing and editors/proofreaders. These groups have archives that will answer many of your questions about proofreading jobs. On Twitter, you can also follow the tweets of people, companies, and industries that interest you.
Freelance proofreading jobs are another great option. If you are detail oriented, able to meet deadlines, and have excellent grammar and spelling skills, you’re well on your way to making a living from your home office.
Web sites such as Freelancewritinggigs.com find freelance proofreading jobs for you. These listings come from multiple sources, and employers can post job ads as well. Check the jobs and comments on such sites daily as the jobs tend to close fast due to the large number of applicants.
Register with directories that provide lists of proofreaders to the public, such as Findaproofreader.com or the Editorial Freelancers Association.
4. Advertise Yourself
Advertising yourself means building your own web site. Some free platforms exist; some cost extra for security or other built-in features. It’s a good idea to look at other proofreaders’ web sites to see what information they include and how they display it. Potential clients like to see details about a proofreader’s background and experience. Testimonials from previous clients are always good. You may also want to include information about how you charge for your services: by the word, by the page, by the project, or by the hour.
5. Job Listings
Here are some web sites where you may be able to find proofreading jobs and gather a group of satisfied clients:
- Louise Harnby lists job directories for editors and proofreaders, divided by nation.
- The American Copy Editors Society provides a list of proofreading jobs.
- If you are interested in doing academic proofreading, “Working for Academic Editing Agencies” discusses working with academic agencies.
- Katharine O’Moore-Klopf has been in publishing for several decades, and she has a long list of job boards.
- Wordy.com contracts copyediting and proofreading jobs.
- MediaBistro lists members in its Freelancer Marketplace.
So, there you have it—five easy steps to landing your dream proofreading job. Remember to be careful with web sites that sound too good to be true; investigate before you provide any personal details. And remember, all editors and proofreaders need to brush up on their skills to keep their clients and employers happy.