Guest Post: “What I Look for When Hiring an Editor”

This is a guest post by Stephanie Stringham, managing editor at Dog Ear Publishing:

Over my years as an editor, I’ve heard a lot of people state confidently that they could be editors because they’re always finding errors when they read. I always have a couple of internal reactions to this. One is humor at how easy people think it is to do my job, and another is to feel a little bit insulted. Outwardly, I simply smile and murmur something noncommital.

The truth is, editing is a service, just like waiting tables, and a good editor, like a good waiter or waitress, will make the job look a lot easier than it appears.

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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 …


The Basics: What Does an Editor Do?

Editors make the written word better.

Whether a manuscript, marketing campaign, grant proposal, article, or website (and everything else in between), editors use their considerable skill and knowledge to make writing more focused, balanced, coherent, and reader-friendly.

They are not simply spellcheckers or grammarians. Rather, they carefully consider how each word fits into the overall picture the author is trying to paint, finding ways to help readers connect with the story being told (no matter the format).

A good editor has no intention of usurping your position as author. We simply want to help make whatever you’ve written the best it can possibly be. And did you know you don’t have to accept anything we tell you? The power is always in your hands. All we ever ask is that you consider.


Starting on the 5th of January I made a goal to send out 5+ job queries per day, every day. That ended on February 4th. In that time I sent out at least 200 queries to every sort of publishing company and local marketing firm. I heard back from 48 of them, about half of which weren’t hiring. The other half requested a resume. Of those who requested a resume, I actually had prolonged conversations with 6 people.

The statistics look scary, I know. But I am happy to say that everyone I spoke to was kind, with a few going above and beyond (including Familius and Storey Publishing).

I am now very excited to be working for Dog Ear Publishing!

So for all those moms out there who might be going through a life transition or are just looking to get back into the workforce: do not give up! Rather, give it all you’ve got. You will get to where you’re headed.