Interested in Becoming an Editor? Discover Valuable Insights about a Profession in Editing.
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So you aspire to become an editor
In a way, everyone engages in the art of editing. A writer meticulously revises a manuscript. A speaker momentarily pauses to find the perfect word. A student clarifies her lecture notes. They all partake in the process of editing.
Professional editors dedicate their careers to such tasks. They work in diverse industries, taking on countless different responsibilities. However, regardless of the project, an editor's ultimate objective remains constant: to enhance the quality of communication.
Whether the text takes the form of an article, book manuscript, website, report, blog, news release, or any other medium of communication, the editor (alongside the writer) bears the responsibility of ensuring that the document is
- precise enough to meet the expectations of the most knowledgeable audience member
- clear enough for even a novice to comprehend
- captivating enough to capture and maintain the attention of all readers
Due to the abundance of websites, online publications, blogs, and social media platforms, anyone can now be a published writer. In order to guarantee accuracy, clarity, and interest in written communications and accompanying visual elements, editors have become more vital than ever.
"Edit: assemble, prepare, or modify (written material, esp. the work of another or others) for publication." Canadian Oxford Dictionary, 2nd ed., 2004
An editor's passions and abilities
Most individuals pursue a career as professional editors due to their fascination with language.
They derive pleasure from discovering the precise word to convey a point, untangling complex information, and refining text until it flows seamlessly. They possess a passion for precision and accuracy. Incessantly observing mistakes in publications drives them towards the field of editing. They spot illogical arguments, inaccurate statistics, and poorly constructed sentences effortlessly.
A career in editing extends beyond a love for language. Accomplished editors transform this interest and skill into a means of earning a living and making a tangible impact on the world around them.
Meet an Editor
I ventured into the realms of editing, translation, and copywriting due to my affection for language and previous opportunities to collaborate with language professionals, including editors. Merely pointing out errors proved insufficient; I needed to rectify them, suggest alternative word choices, and, at times, rewrite texts to achieve improved readability.
Being an English editor in a bilingual environment presents its challenges. I perpetually grapple with French influences on my English, which frequently result in flawed syntax and faulty sentence structure. Certain clients fail to recognize the value of my linguistic judgment. Fortunately, numerous individuals, small businesses, government offices, not-for-profit organizations, and communications companies in Quebec rely on editors to ensure the excellence of their English copy. We all benefit when we acknowledge the significance of producing top-notch documents in both of Canada's official languages.
Dwain Richardson, Montreal, Quebec
An editor must possess:
- a natural instinct for identifying patterns, organizing ideas, and creating categories
- a willingness to question assumptions, theories, and facts
- a keen interest in continuous learning
An editor must not only possess proficiency in grammar, spelling, and composition but also possess the ability to:
- visualize the final product while simultaneously attending to and remembering details
- reason logically and exercise sound judgment
- restructure a document to achieve clarity and momentum
- detect any missing elements in a passage
- employ a wide range of reference materials
- adhere to deadlines
- keep a close watch on the budget
- cooperate effectively with the various individuals involved in the publication process
Editors emerge from diverse backgrounds, yet they all possess the skill of crafting effective communication tools by identifying the most suitable structure, format, and content for each audience and purpose. Ultimately, editors are individuals who think on behalf of both the writer and the reader.
Where and how editors carry out their workEditors can be found in various industries, such as publishing, sales, marketing, manufacturing, government, law, and education, among others. Some editors specialize in specific fields, like scientific or medical editing, while others work on a wide range of content.
The advent of technology has transformed the editing process. Instead of using a red pen, editors now rely on keyboards, mice, and even digital pens and tablets. Documents are shared electronically among team members. Editors often use advanced software and publishing platforms, and they may need to have skills in multimedia software and interactive technologies, which combine text with graphics, audio, video, and animation. Given the ever-evolving internet and computer software, editors must be adaptable and flexible.
Editors are collaborative individuals who frequently work with others to achieve common objectives. The best editors possess a broad understanding of the communications and publishing industries and collaborate effectively with writers, publishers, web developers, designers, artists, photographers, project managers, printers, and fellow editors.
Editors engage in numerous tasks, including acquisitions, manuscript and project development, research, structural editing, stylistic editing, rewriting, fact-checking, copy editing, picture research, proofreading, indexing, layout, and production editing. The Professional Editorial Standards provides detailed descriptions of these key roles.
Meet an EditorMy path towards a freelance career in editing was not a conscious decision, but rather a serendipitous occurrence. After obtaining my MA in English, I spent a couple of years exploring various pursuits, including teaching a university-level grammar course. It eventually occurred to me that I could apply my teaching experience to editing and writing. A fortunate connection led me to a dream job opportunity in federal government editing. While waiting for that position to materialize (which it never did), I actively sought short-term contracts, which gradually expanded my freelancing career. The diversity and independence inherent in freelance work captivated me. Each day presented new challenges, and I had the freedom to work on my terms. It was perfect. And it remains so.
Frances Peck, West Coast Editorial Associates, Vancouver, BC
An editor's chosen career pathIndividuals enter the field of editing from various starting points. Some pursue professional writing, communications, or journalism degrees before venturing into full-time editing careers. Others come from completely unrelated fields and subsequently combine their prior experience with editing education to transition into new roles.
Choosing between freelance (self-employed) and in-house (full-time or part-time) editing positions hinges on two crucial considerations: the importance of a regular salary and the desire for control over one's schedule.
Freelance editors benefit from flexible hours, making it an excellent fit for night owls and parents with young children. Freelancers have the freedom to select their colleagues and clients to a certain extent. They can also focus on marketing their services to industries aligned with their interests.
Meet an EditorIt is said that few editors initially set out to become editors. I am an exception. Having recently graduated with an MA in English and working as a tutor, I was thrilled to discover a profession that allowed me to utilize my skills. Joining the Editors' Association of Canada (Editors Canada), enrolling in every available course, reading extensively, and familiarizing myself with style sheets and editing symbols opened up a new world for me. Although my start as an editor involved editing romance and thriller novels for minimum wage, I found an in-house position with a professional association through an Editors Canada job posting. It provided the perfect blend of variety and stability. Over the course of 15 years in this role, I have continued my education through courses, achieved Editors Canada certification, and gained invaluable on-the-job experience. In a way, I am always evolving as an editor.
Kristina Lundberg, Certified Professional
Editor (CPE), Edmonton, AB
Meet an EditorWhen I transitioned from academia to freelance editing, I had apprehensions. I feared missing the classroom dearly... but I was mistaken. No more essay grading! I now have the freedom to choose my working hours and spend more time with my children. Each project exposes me to new knowledge, ranging from safety suits to Welsh literature, undersea oil pipelines to Beethoven. Once a project is finished, I anticipate the next adventure. Volunteering for Editors Canada has introduced me to a community of fellow editors, dispelling any sense of isolation. Attending the annual conference has become essential for staying abreast of industry trends and developments.
Claire Wilkshire, St. John's, NL
As freelance editors, our income is derived from multiple employers rather than relying on a single steady salary. This means that we may experience periods of high demand and times of lesser workload, resulting in a fluctuating monthly or yearly income. However, we have the flexibility to choose higher-paying clients or work longer hours to ensure greater financial stability.
In-house editors, on the other hand, generally have a predictable schedule and income every month. While their workload varies depending on the nature of the job, most follow regular business hours.
In today's business landscape, many companies opt for hiring independent contractors as a cost-effective alternative to full-time employees. As a result, freelance editors are highly sought after, especially during downsizing periods, and advancements in technology have made it convenient for us to work from any location.
Rewards and Challenges of a Career in Editing
As editors, we often work with minimal supervision and are entrusted with making independent decisions. For the right individual, this freedom and autonomy can be immensely rewarding.
One of the benefits of being a freelance editor is the ability to work from the comfort of our homes, set our own hours, and select projects that interest us. However, this level of freedom requires discipline. Additionally, the pressure of meeting tight deadlines and ensuring absolute accuracy can be seen as welcome challenges by many editors.
Despite the importance of our role, editors are not always acknowledged for their contributions. Some say we are like the unsung heroes of the publishing world. Nevertheless, many editors find satisfaction in being the reliable supporting actors behind the scenes.
The rate an editor earns per hour can vary significantly depending on factors such as the local and global economy, the sector they work in (e.g., not-for-profit, public, private), their ability to seek out opportunities, and their skill level.
According to a 2012 survey of Editors Canada members, the majority of respondents charged between $40 and $59 per hour for most types of work.
- 44% of those working with not-for-profit clients charged less than $40 per hour.
- 46% of those working with public sector clients commanded or more per hour.
- 42% of those working with corporate sector clients demanded or more per hour.
Meet a Distinguished Editor
Being a member of Editors Canada is an invaluable investment. Apart from gaining access to the Online Directory of Editors and professional development opportunities, it grants you entry into a diverse community of experts with unparalleled combined knowledge. As a freelance editor specializing in academic editing, my membership in Editors Canada has played an instrumental role in establishing and sustaining my business. Whether it's the latest information learned at seminars, new skills acquired through volunteering, or the genuine connections made at meetings and conferences, my membership continues to provide valuable support in various ways.
Suzanne Purkis, Ottawa, ON
Education and Training
Many editors possess a university degree in subjects such as English literature, history, communications, or journalism. Technical editors might have pursued studies in their specific fields; for instance, medical editors could have a scientific background.
In the past, there were limited formal training programs for editors, and employers primarily valued experience and reputation, as demonstrated through a professional portfolio. However, the landscape is changing.
Today, a significant number of aspiring editors are graduates of comprehensive university or college editing and publishing programs taught by respected instructors who provide meticulous feedback. This rigorous professional training includes working on authentic manuscripts or documents sourced from the real world, ensuring editors gain practical experience and develop high standards.
Editors with exceptional skills and several years of experience have the opportunity to obtain recognition through Editors Canada's professional certification program (www.editors.ca). This program assesses mastery in proofreading, copy editing, stylistic editing, and structural editing. Editors who achieve certification in one or more areas often find that it opens doors to higher-paying work and attracts a larger client base.
Courses in writing, editing, and publishing are available at colleges and universities throughout Canada. You can also consider distance learning options. For more information, visit Editors Canada's website at www.editors.ca/training/education.html. Additionally, you can check with Editors Canada to find out about seminars offered in your area.
Key Points to Know about Editing as a Career
According to a survey conducted among Editors Canada members in 2012, the following profile represents the average member:
- The majority of members are female (91%).
- Most members have a university education (91%).
- Many members are self-employed (75%).
- A significant number of members work from a home office (70%).
- Approximately two-thirds of members reside in urban areas (66%).
- Over 60% of members possess 10 or more years of experience.
- 56% of members actively participate in continuing education.
- A majority of members attend Editors Canada workshops and seminars (78%).
Copyright and Acknowledgements
© 2015 Editors' Association of Canada/ Association canadienne des réviseurs
All rights reserved. Any reproduction, transmission, or use of any part of this publication, whether electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise, or storage in a retrieval system, without prior written consent from the publisher or an appropriate license from Access Copyright, is a violation of copyright law.
Written and published by: Editors' Association of Canada/ Association canadienne des réviseurs (Editors Canada)
1507-180 Dundas Street West
Toronto ON M5G 1Z8
For more information, visit Editors Canada's website at www.editors.ca.
This booklet is an updated version of the 2011 edition. It was prepared by Amanda Grondahl, with assistance from Ramona Brown, Brooke Burns, Tammy Burns, Irene Kavanagh, and Penny McKinlay. The writing team received valuable input and reviews from Heather Ebbs, Sheila Mahoney, Adrienne Montgomerie, Maureen Nicholson, Kelly Parry, Rosemary Shipton, and Alethea Spiridon. The design was created by Susan Yang. Anne Louise Mahoney, co-director of publications at Editors Canada, and Michelle Ou, communications manager at Editors Canada, managed the project. Jennifer Rae-Brown proofread the layout. Some content in this booklet is adapted from the previous version of "So, You Want to Be an Editor," written by John Eerkes-Medrano, Susan Gaitskell, Dennis Mills, and Jim Taylor.
Download "So You Want to Be an Editor"
Considering a career in editing but unsure of what it really involves? You can download a complimentary copy of "So You Want to Be an Editor" by visiting the following link:
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