Are you considering a glamorous career in editing? If you are thinking about becoming an editor, you’ve probably come across some pretty crazy misconceptions about what exactly editors do and what we’re like. You may have heard that editors are detailed-obsessed individuals who take great pleasure in knowing more than others do about grammar and punctuation. Well, that’s entirely true. It’s a well-known fact that one cannot be an editor without an inner drive that forces him or her to strive for an unattainable level of perfection. If you spent a good part of your childhood trying to convince your parents that any low marks you achieved in school were, in fact, the end of the world, you’ve probably always been destined to become an editor.
If you’re going to be an editor, you should probably also be aware of the popular myths that surround this magical and mysterious career. Many people believe things about editors that simply aren’t true, and there’s nothing we dislike more than incorrect information being passed off as fact. (Except, maybe, comma splices. We just can’t handle that crap.)
Myth #1: All Editors Do the Same Thing
One common misconception about editors is that we all perform the same job duties. In reality, there are several different kinds of editors, and they all do different things. Two of the most different types of editors are developmental editors and copy editors. Developmental editors help structure the entire project, while copy editors focus more on technical things, like the use of punctuation and adherence to grammar principles. Another type of editor is an acquisitions editor, sometimes known as a commissioning editor. This person is responsible for choosing which manuscripts a publishing house should publish. Depending on the project, all three of these very different types of editors may be involved at some point.
So, depending on your interests and skills, you may be better suited for one type of editing than another. But don’t worry—although we do different jobs, we’re all equally awesome.
Myth #2: Editors Are Evil Destroyers of Dreams
It’s not uncommon for writers to fear editors. Many writers think that editors are out to tear their work to shreds or to change it until it is unrecognizable, but the truth is only bad editors do that. Good editors value good work, and if we feel that something could use improvement, we provide constructive feedback and solid examples of how that improvement could be made. That being said, if something is grammatically incorrect, we will change it—after all, that’s what we’re being paid to do! Sensitive authors and people whose grasp of grammar isn’t nearly as good as they think it is give editors a bad name, but you know what Taylor Swift always says—those haters gonna hate, hate, hate, hate, hate. Shake it off. Just shake it off.
Myth #3: Editors Never Make Mistakes
Even the best professionals make mistakes. Just look at Ben Affleck. He broke into the film industry with Good Will Hunting, a brilliant film jam-packed with stellar performances. He went on to make some other good movies, and then there was . . . Gigli. This film has a 2.3/10 rating on imbd.com and a measly 6% on rottentomatoes.com. It’s widely considered to be one of the worst movies ever made. After the abomination that was Gigli, Affleck managed to establish himself as a serious director and a decent actor. So you see, everyone makes mistakes!
Now, I will admit that most editors don’t make mistakes of Gigli proportions. We’re more likely to miss the occasional misused comma or incorrect word choice than to make epic mistakes of the feature film variety. Still, the lesson here remains the same: editors are people, and people make mistakes.
Myth #4: Editors Are Proofreaders
Editing and proofreading, while similar in nature, are not actually the same thing. Yes, both editing and proofreading involve removing errors from a document. However, editors tend to focus more on the big picture, while proofreaders are responsible for making a document error-free. This doesn’t mean that one is more important than the other; instead, it means that one should come before the other.
A document should first be edited, then proofread. These are two different services, and they should be provided by two different people. There’s a reason why editors aren’t called Editoofreaders and proofreaders aren’t called Proofeditors. They aren’t the same thing.
Myth #5: All Editors Are Geeks or Nerds
Okay, so I can see where people might get this one from. Yes, editors are smart and good with language. Yes, we typically do enjoy reading. Yes, we know lots of things that other people don’t know about grammar. But that doesn’t make us all geeks. If anything, we’re definitely geek-chic. Who cares, anyway? Everyone knows that brainy is the new sexy. (All right, fine. Maybe this one isn’t a myth after all. But don’t you act like you didn’t thoroughly enjoy that Sherlock reference.)
Myth #6: Editors Are Becoming Obsolete
Some people think they don’t need editors anymore. Why pay for an editor when word processors like Microsoft Word have built-in spelling and grammar checkers? Here’s why:
“I went too go to the storage.”
According to Microsoft Word, which I’m currently using to write this blog post, that is a perfectly acceptable sentence. Despite the fact that it makes no sense and has three incorrect word choices, it’s A-Okay in Word’s book. People will always need real editors because I didn’t “went too go to the storage”; I wanted to go to the store.
Now that you know a little bit more about what an editor isn’t, wouldn’t you like to know a bit more about what being an editor is all about? Check out some of Inklyo’s resources to see if you have what it takes to become a professional word warrior.
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