A Lover of Editing?

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Photo | EKHumphrey
A friend put out a call on social media: I have so many skills—what do I do? She had lost her job and mentioned that she liked to edit and write (among other skills) and wondered if any of her friends could provide her with advice on breaking into this business.

We exchanged several emails. In one of them, she admitted she was a little rusty in the editing department having not really done any since college and she wondered how I keep fresh in editing.
For as long as I can remember, I have loved words. I’ve loved playing with words. And for several years I considered myself an editor because I could (and did) read the work of others and let them know what appeared to me to be right or wrong. But I had trouble getting paid to edit.

Then I studied what it means to be an editor. I took an editor’s boot camp and earned a certificate. As a freelance professional, editing is so much more than knowing the differences between its and it’s.
Here is some of what I described to her, in the context of her wanting to become a freelance editor:
  • Even though I thought I knew editing, getting a certificate of editing opened many doors and skills for me, especially in terms of freelance editing. I had been trying to break into editing for several years, but it was only when I earned a certificate that I knew I had the skills to be an editor. (On the job training would have helped and that is another great way to become an editor, but was unavailable to me at that time.)
  • One of the big differences between someone who likes to find typos and someone who has learned the skills to edit is electronic editing. It can make a big difference in your editing. (It can also help with your own writing drafts.)
  • How to use style guides is important to know. For example, I use The Chicago Manual of Style for my freelance work and my day job requires me to know Associated Press style.
  • Editing daily helps me stay fresh, but it is useful to have an in-person mentor. I have a colleague who will sometimes edit a document after me and I learn a lot from her edits or seek her advice.
  • For the courses I teach through UCSD Extension, we use The Copyeditor’s Handbook by Amy Einsohn, which can be used as a self-guided course with exercises and answers. Her third chapter gives you a great list of references/resources to start with on your journey to become an editor. 
I used to think that editing was just about the love of words. Now I know it is a love of editing.

I know my friend was surprised at all that I explained to her about editing. What do you want to know about editing? What surprises you about editing and editors?

Elizabeth King Humphrey writes, edits, and teaches online classes from North Carolina. She earned her editing certification from the University of Chicago, Graham School in 2011.


Sioux Roslawski said...

You are--apparently--one of those gems...the kind of writer that every writing critique clamors for. Editors with a sharp eye are so great to know and work with.

I am surprised how quickly some people can edit. I used to be in a critique group where writers read aloud their pieces, and then the critique sessions would begin. There was one writer who could listen and edit and revise simultaneously, and by the time the writer had finished reading their work, she was finished too. AND it was meticulously done.

Thanks for this post. It's always interesting to chat about editing.

Elizabeth King Humphrey said...

Thanks, Sioux! I hope so. :)

Yes, editing is always a great topic with lots of opinions.

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