Finding a Career in Words: Editing as a Profession
What would you do if you found a mistake in something you’d read, like a menu in a restaurant, an online blog or a newspaper? Would you just try to ignore it or would you try to tell someone about it? If you chose the second option, you might want to consider working as an editor someday. Editors are people who love words and writing, and who want writers’ thoughts to be communicated as clearly and effectively as possible, whether on paper or online. Editors are the link between writers and readers.
Many different jobs can be part of an editor’s work. Some editors work as managers of newspapers, magazines or publishing companies. They decide what materials to publish and what to reject or to send back to the author for rewriting. Others work directly with authors to help them improve their work by making suggestions about the style or content. If a novel has far too many characters for readers to remember or is written in a very difficult style, stylistic or substantive editors can help.
Near the end of the process, some editors work with the layout of the book or article, deciding how to fit it onto the page and make it look presentable. Others check names, dates and facts to ensure they’re correct. Just before the book or article goes to be printed or put on a website, a proofreader or copy-editor might look at it to check for mistakes in word usage, grammar, punctuation and spelling. If all of these parts work together, the result is a well-written and accurate document.
To some extent, almost everyone is an editor. Have you ever checked your friend’s school assignment for mistakes? You were acting as an editor then. Have you ever stopped in the middle of a sentence to think of a better way of saying something? You were editing your own words. Professional editors do that kind of thing for a living.
Generally, editors are not required to have any particular education in order to work. However, a Bachelor’s degree in English literature, creative writing or communications is very helpful. Some editors might also be required to obtain professional certification in areas such as technical communication. They might need to take courses on a variety of topics to keep their knowledge current. For many editors, a good knowledge of grammar is essential. Nouns, verbs, and prepositions are daily concerns for many editors. Reading all kinds of fiction, non-fiction and poetry is another form of training for editors. The more they read, the better prepared they’ll be to work with other people’s writing.
In some cases, becoming an editor means a steady job with a regular paycheque. In most cases, however, the work is far more uncertain. Freelance editors who work with many different people have to be comfortable with an uncertain income. They have to be willing to work long hours and often to find another job to support themselves. For many editors, however, the enjoyment they get from the work is worth the trouble.
So if you love words, why not consider becoming an editor?