The Basics: Becoming an Editor

Everyone comes to this career differently:

There are a few things, however, that all good editors-to-be have in common:

  • passion for detail
  • strong command of spelling, grammar, and punctuation
  • the drive, always, to learn more

Also, as Carol Fisher Saller writes in The Subversive Copy Editor, they are “liberally educated and culturally literate. They know a foreign language or two, are reasonably numerate, and have traveled a bit.”

Put simply, being well rounded will make you a better editor.


To be a successful editor, however, there are two more traits you’ll need, and they only come with time. Those traits are proficiency and experience. Or maybe that should read “proficiency through experience,” because really, that’s the only way to progress.

You start at the beginning with the most basic thing you can find—a friend’s term paper, a colleague’s PowerPoint presentation, a local nonprofit’s brochure—and you jump in with both feet. You make mistakes. You underestimate your timeline. You undercharge …

But you learn. You grow. And you begin to feel confident enough in your abilities to reach out to new prospective clients, introducing yourself and your skills, taking editing tests when needed, and generally expanding your business.

There’s no easy path. There’s no straight road. But believe me when I say that if can get there, so can you.

More to come on this subject in the days ahead …