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? A good first step might be to check out EditingCamp, an online editing training program.
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. Whether you are interested in working as a freelance editor or being part of an editorial team, you will need your editing skills to be top notch, which is why we recommend enrolling in EditingCamp, an online editing course aimed at teaching the necessities of editing and refining your skills. Editing as a career is an educational adventure. You will learn something new every day!
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