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.
- complete exercises
- take a course or seminar
- read a style guide, or four
- join a professional organization
- attend a conference
- join a professional organization
- take a course or seminar, or attend a conference
- read Louise Harnby’s book
These other posts from my colleagues are helpful:
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
Look 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.
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 Copyediting.com 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 Starters, which 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
- For academic and corporate products/clients:
- For media-related products:
- Canadian Press Stylebook (and Caps and Spelling)
- Associated Press Style
- For government:
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.
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.
- Meeting Professional Editorial Standards
- 8-step Editing (Quick Fixes for Business Writing)
- Copyeditors Handbook
- Subversive Copyeditor
- Editors on editing: what writers need to know about what editors do
- The Copyeditor’s Handbook: A Guide for Book Publishing and Corporate Communications
*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)?