Thinking of a Career in Editing?

Curious about editing? A conference is a great way to find out about the people who edit, the variety of tasks they do, and the places /clients they work for. There are many conferences.

Most editors come at the profession from other areas of expertise. They find they are good with words and have become the “go to” person at their workplace. Stepping from science (say) into science editing, is a sideways step that can be much less painful than a complete career change. The steps below can help you gain experience and an idea of whether or not editing is for you. Editors make up an incredibly diverse career group. As you navigate the early phases, remember that whatever someone tells you, the exact opposite may also be true.

The Editors’ Association of Canada (EAC) released a booklet about careers in editing. You can read that advice on their website.





To learn about editing:

  1. complete exercises
  2. take a course or seminar
  3. read a style guide, or four
  4. join a professional organization
  5. attend a conference


Starter Kit for Editors category | Finding Work | Office Essentials | Background Skills | Reading List | How to Become an Editor | Estimating Your Pace | Setting Fees



To learn about freelancing:

  1. join a professional organization
  2. take a course or seminar, or attend a conference
  3. read Louise Harnby’s book

These other posts from my colleagues are helpful:

How to Transition to Copyediting From Another Career

Proofreaders-to-be: Loving Books Isn’t Enough

Are You Editor Material?

Join a professional organization

If you noticed that I said that twice, you might be an editor. If it bothers you that there are about 3 lists above with overlapping points, you might be an editor. If you are looking for a third point in these punch lines, you might be an editor.

Professional organizations give you access to colleagues, resources, training, and accreditation (sometimes). They also help you look more professional. Most importantly, you’ll be surrounded by people who understand why the “inconsistencies” above aggravate you so.

The Editors’ Association of Canada (EAC) has many local groups where you can meet other editors and take part in training. There are low-cost options for student membership as well as pay-as-you-go participation. EAC also offers workbooks, seminars, standards, and skills certification for experienced editors.

If you are in the US, you might join the Editorial Freelancer’s Association (EFA). In Australia, look into joining the Society of Editors or, in the UK, seek out SfEP. Get the idea? There are tons of groups related to editing. Look around.*

No matter where you are, you might join the free and international copyeditors list (an email-based forum) to see what editors talk about, the types of products they work on, their challenges, and their successes.

There are professional organizations that get even more narrowly focussed, such as BELS (life sciences editors) and the AMWA which have somewhat global appeal and reach — one of the benefits of the world wide web.

Take a course or seminar

woman lecturer in AfricaLook for courses on running a freelance business, as well as those on line editing skills. There is a large and specific skill set related to to editing, part of which is understanding the basic types/phases of editing. You can educate yourself, the way most veteran editors have done.

Today, there are several programs in higher education that specialize in editing. For example, SFU and Ryerson offer courses online and Queen’s now offers an overview course through distance ed.

Professional organizations like EAC and EFA offer in-person seminars across the country and other professional associations (such as BELS) offer courses online as well.

Taking a certificate in publishing or editing seems like an easy way to organize learning, access the pro community and its leaders, and get validation of your skills as well as a bit of mentorship.

For online training

The EFA offers editing courses online, about technology and publishing, not just language. Membership in gives you unlimited access to training, online (or on phone) and on demand. (Disclosure, both organizations are my clients.)

For freelancing advice

Read Editor Mom’s webpage and pick up Louise Harnby’s excellent overview: Business Planning for Editorial Freelancers: A Guide for New Starterswhich I have reviewed. And check out Liz’s growing resource.

Attend a Conference

This can be a great deep-end experience that lets you peek in at a wide variety of types of editing and see what, if anything, might be of interest. Sessions are often heavily geared toward new starters.

Annual editors’ conferences around the globe:

Editors’ Association of Canada @EditorCon — June

Society for Editors and Proofreaders @TheSfEP — September, UK

Communication Central @commcen — September, Rochester

Council of Science Editors @CScienceEditors — May, USA

American Medical Writers Association @AmMedWriters — September

American Copy Editors Society @copyeditors — March

Northwest Independent Editors Guild “Red Pen” @EdsGuild — October, USA

Christian PEN (Proofreaders and Editors Network) @ChristianPen2 — May, USA

SENSE (Society of English-Native-Speaking Editors) — November, Netherlands

IPEd (Institute of Professional Editors) — *biannual, Australia

Read a style guide

magnified eyeYou should really read more that one, so you understand that there are choices. Depending on your desired (or most accessible) market, you might read

There’s likely a style guide specific to your subject area and/or to your market. Peruse the extensive list maintained by KOKedit, in the form of the Copyeditors Knowledge Base.

Complete exercises

proken red pencil You may get the best idea of the various types of editing by reading the EAC’s skills definitions and detailed Professional Editorial Standards.

LinkedIn is actually a good place to find niche groups. You might find one related to journalistic/media editing or the arts. I have found a few relating to science and education — my niche. Though, sometimes the threads are stale and dated.

Recommended workbooks:

*For a lengthy list of professional associations and sources of training, style, guides, and so forth, check the copyeditor’s database assembled and maintained by my indefatigable colleague, Katharine O’Moore-Klopf.


What’s your story?
How did you come to editing?
What do you do for professional development and career advancement (also called business development)?


Related posts: How to Find Freelance Editing Work and Starter Kit for Freelance Editors

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  7. Gael Spivak, EAC National Director of Volunteer Relations has this advice:

    You can also get experience though volunteering.

    To guide you in thinking strategically about the best way to volunteer for professional development (including developing non-editing skills), see the presentation Lisa Goodlet and I gave at the recent EAC conference, “Develop and Maintain Your Skills: Volunteering for Professional Development.” You can find it here:

    If you have any questions about volunteering with EAC, please ask.

  8. Louise Harnby wrote a post about business planning that (insufficiently) summarizes her book. That’s code for “you should really read her book.”

    And here is another good summary she wrote. Note that “Having a good eye for detail and a strong grasp of language is only the start.” (Point #6.) Gawd, every time I read some of Louise’s business advice, I find myself punching the air in enthusiastic support. Read it and follow it; it will put you on a fruitful path.

    The SfEP published sample edits on their website, so you can see what you’re getting into. (A bit like what’s in the MPES books; using UK English & style.)

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