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Duties of an Editor & How Editors Help Writers

February 1, 2011 by Fiction Editor Beth Hill
last modified April 3, 2013

One of the most repeated phrases people use to reach and then search my blog is “What does an editor do?”

I’m not sure who’s looking for this information. And not knowing the source of the question, I’m not sure how to answer.

Is a high school student looking for an answer to an assignment, maybe wondering about editing as a career?

Is a professional in one career looking to change positions?

Perhaps a writer is wondering what an editor can do for her, maybe looking for clues about how to approach an editor or wondering what her new editor at the publishing house will be responsible for.

So, not knowing exactly what information people are seeking, I’ll present enough to get almost anyone started.


An editor polishes and refines, he directs the focus of the story or article or movie along a particular course. He cuts out what doesn’t fit, what is nonessential to the purpose of the story. He enhances the major points, drawing attention to places where the audience should focus.

Many fields make use of editors—film, video, magazine, newspaper, blog, and book, both fiction and non-fiction. A task common to all is to ensure that the product they produce is the best it can be in the time available and with the resources available.

A film editor may have weeks to put together his movie, the sound editor about the same. An editor working to develop a non-fiction book may spend a year or more collaborating with the author. A newspaper editor, working either in print or online, may have only minutes or a few hours to check or rework a story.

Because this is chiefly a blog for writers and editors of books, I’m going to restrict the specifics of editing to those editors who refine the written word rather than those who work with film or video or sound.

You’ll see overlap between terms and duties, chiefly because there’s no one definition for editor and no simple explanation of what an editor does.

There are several levels of editors at newspapers and magazines.

Editor in chief or editor at-large—Responsible for the type of content produced by their newspapers or magazines, the look of the product, and the nature and number of stories/articles to be written.

Managing editor—Works under the most senior editor. Directs writers to particular stories. May write some of the stories. May be responsible for one section of a newspaper (business or style or local news) or magazine. May write headlines or may delegate that task to others.

Copy editor—Responsible for checking article facts and ensuring that an article matches in-house style guides. Also checks spelling, grammar, and punctuation. May also suggest word changes to keep the newspaper or magazine from being sued. May arrange layout of articles and sidebars. Copy editors might write headlines.

Depending on the size and scope of the publication, a newspaper or magazine editor may perform a combination of the tasks mentioned above. Their job is to see that interesting and/or informative articles are produced in a timely and accurate manner, with no factual errors and few writing errors.

Publishing house
Here again we find several types of editors.

Acquisitions editor—Finds new authors and promotes writers he thinks will be profitable for the publisher. Often must fight to get an author accepted by the publishing house because he’s competing with other editors to bring in new authors. Writers and agents typically submit manuscripts to the acquisitions editor. The acquisitions editor, especially for fiction, may follow a manuscript from submission to publication, suggesting plot-level changes to bring the story in line with his/the publisher’s vision for the product line.

Developmental editor—Helps a writer develop a book from idea or outline or initial draft. Makes sure the book will meet the needs of the publisher and its readers. Will work with the author through any number of drafts. Often works with writers of non-fiction. Guides the writer in topics to be covered in or omitted from the book.

Copy/manuscript editor—(These may be two different positions or one that combines elements of both or the same position called by a different name.) Ensures that the manuscript meets in-house style standards and corrects grammar, spelling, and punctuation. Checks facts and may suggest different words. Verifies headings, statistics, data in graphs, and footnote entries. For fiction, the manuscript editor will check for consistency and logic, and will read with the needs of the audience in mind.

Proofreader—Compares one version of a manuscript against another to eliminate errors from the newest version. The proofreader is the last person to check a manuscript before publication. A proofreader is not an editor in the traditional sense, but because of a crossover between duties, an editor may be the proofreader.

Either the acquisitions or manuscript editor may suggest moving or dropping scenes, dropping or changing characters, changing point of view, or making other major changes to a manuscript.

Freelance editor
A freelance editor works for himself and is hired by a writer to ready his manuscript for publication.

Copy editor—A freelance copy editor may deal primarily with spelling, grammar, punctuation, fact checking, and word choice (in the sense that he makes sure the words mean what the author thinks they mean).

Developmental editor—As detailed above, the developmental editor helps the writer from the idea stage through the final draft. He may suggest topics, help with research, verify facts, and plan the structure of the manuscript. He works through successive drafts with the writer. He’s as concerned with the structure of a manuscript as much as he is the words and meaning.

Substantive editor—Helps a writer improve his fiction manuscript by focusing on story elements, plot, characterization, dialogue, order of scenes, point of view, voice, setting, word choice, sentence construction and syntax, and pace—anything that could improve the strength of the manuscript.

Helps a writer with a non-fiction manuscript by ensuring that sections lead logically from one to another, that there is consistency and flow, and that the right amount of information is presented. Will make sure that conclusions are sound and come from what has been presented.

Substantive editors do not usually work with a writer from the beginning stages, but instead will come to a manuscript after the writer has completed several drafts. Points out weaknesses and suggests options to strengthen those areas. Examines both the big picture and the fine details of a manuscript (including grammar, spelling, and punctuation).

Ghost writer—Shares the writing of a manuscript with an author or writes the entire manuscript based on the author’s suggestions, leading, and research.


Areas and elements that an editor (specifically a book editor) might look at—

Non-fiction editor
Besides making corrections and suggestions for the technical elements—spelling and punctuation, data and fact verification, footnote and index accuracy and so on—the editor of non-fiction will help a writer organize the manuscript for greatest impact, clarity, and readability. She will check the flow and rhythms of the manuscript. She will ensure that conclusions are sufficiently supported. She’ll look for variety in sentence construction and make suggestions where necessary.

She’ll make sure word choices match the intended audience in terms of knowledge and age appropriateness and suitability. She may suggest sections where an anecdote or other story might be appropriate. She’ll check to see that the style of presentation matches the subject matter. She’ll look for threads to connect chapters and sections so the manuscript reads as a cohesive whole.

Fiction editor
Beyond the technical issues of grammar, punctuation, and spelling, the fiction editor will look at story issues.

She’ll make sure there’s enough plot for the length of the novel or novella. She’ll read for plot inconsistencies or dangling plot threads. She’ll make sure characters are sufficiently different from one another and that they speak with their own voices, show off their own quirks.

She’ll read for pace and logic and the entertainment factor. She’ll suggest word choices that better fit character and genre. She’ll look for balance in setting and dialogue, action and exposition. She’ll check scene transitions and chapter-ending hooks, making sure the reader is engaged by each.

She may suggest a change in point of view or in the viewpoint character. May suggest a change in verb tense—past to present or present to past. She will note where the author’s opinions and/or prejudices have gotten in the way of the fiction.

She’ll point out saidisms, overuse of modifiers, and fuzzy passages. The fiction editor will make sure the writer has given characters sufficient motivation. She’ll check scenes for sense elements and conflict. She’ll help the writer put the protagonist into tough situations and then turn up the heat.

She’ll root out clichés.

The fiction editor will make sure the resolution fulfills the promise of the story opening, that it’s satisfying and inevitable.

Both the fiction editor and the editor of non-fiction bring that outsider’s eye to a manuscript. They notice when and where elements don’t fit. They see that something’s missing.

And they know what to do to fix the lapses.


~ Editors bring to a manuscript the polish and knowledge and skills that a writer might not have, might not know how to use, or might not see the need for in his own work.

~ An editor makes sure the writer’s work says what the writer intends and says it in the writer’s voice and with his sensibilities.

~ An editor’s job is to make a story, article, or manuscript better. Better in terms of clarity, enjoyment, logic, flow, and meaning. Better in terms of meeting the needs of the audience.

~ An editor serves the project, the author, and the reader.

~ An editor balances the writer’s desires with the publisher’s standards and the reader’s expectations—and finds a way to produce a story to satisfy all three.

~ Editors read. They write. They love words and the millions of stories that can be crafted from them. They assemble parts of a manuscript as if they were puzzle pieces, putting them together to make a fascinating and appealing picture, a picture that readers will want to explore in depth.

~ They are typically picky, sticklers for what they believe is right, opinionated, and determined. They often have a great eye for detail, a strong vocabulary, and knowledge of odd grammar rules.

~ They enjoy working with—and playing with—words.

~ Editors are enhancers. They work to make what is good better, what is great, outstanding. They challenge writers. They challenge themselves.



Tags:     Posted in: Definitions

119 Responses to “Duties of an Editor & How Editors Help Writers”

  1. The Raven says:

    A great overview of the profession. I’d like to add that editors tend to be highly skilled at knowing what “the usual thing” is.

    Based on their extensive knowledge of literature, editors evaluate text in terms of its distance from the norm. Some deviations are unacceptable, such as errors in grammar and spelling. Proofreaders catch these, as do general editors.

    Where word choice and composition stray from the standard is where the author’s distinctive voice emerges. The editor’s task, then, becomes one of preserving style while sharpening the author’s intent. If a sentence is an arrow, then the editor ensures that it cleanly hits the mark.

    In actual practice, this is often a process of culling away unneeded words, not re-writing or recasting expression. Let’s look at a real-world example (

    [Original text]
    “For anyone who wants to check all of this, I really don’t suggest watching Groundhog Day in this manner. It’s not the best way to enjoy what is essentially a light-hearted comedy whose metaphysical concerns are supposed to be enjoyed in fun, and not worked out mathematically. Normal people should be happy to just watch, and accept that Phil Connors is stuck repeating his one day endlessly over and over until he finds himself- but then, I don’t think I’m normal.”

    [Edited version]
    “For anyone who wants to verify this, I don’t suggest actually watching Groundhog Day in this manner. It’s a light-hearted comedy, whose metaphysical concerns are supposed to be enjoyed and not worked out mathematically. Just accept that Phil Connors is repeating one day over and over until he finds himself.”

    There are several ways the passage could be edited, and this example is only a demonstration of how truncating can produce a cleaner read.

  2. Raven, you’re so right about editors cutting out the unnecessary—it’s one of their basic tasks. You mentioned another good point—passages can be edited in a number of ways. The way passages and scenes are edited builds up a cumulative effect across a story. It shapes the flavor of the manuscript.

    Thank you for the insightful contributions to the discussion.

  3. Thank you for answering this question. I am beginning my journey to be a published author. I have submitted one manuscript which the publisher passed on, but offered favorable feedback. However, I was still asking myself..what does an editor look for?

  4. Debra Ann, getting feedback from the publisher is great. With all they have to do, it’s difficult for them to offer personal responses. That they did with your submission tells you you’re on the right track.

    Editors and publishers are looking for stories they can sell and stories that fit their lines. They may also be looking for writers who can reliably deliver more stories beyond that first one.

    Here’s hoping you find a publisher looking for what you have to offer.

  5. I just finished writing my first non-fiction book. Now,I need to get it proofread and edited. I dont have any idea how much these services cost.. or what to expect.. Can you offer me any advice on what to do next ?

    Im so excited about my book..Its an attention grabber!
    Thank You for your time and help… I appreciate it..

  6. Beverly, congratulations! Finishing that first book is a milestone worth celebrating. Make sure you take time to mark the occasion.

    The next step should be to step away from the project for a while. Don’t think about it for a few weeks. Then go back and begin your rewrites and your own edits. A book-length manuscript, fiction or non-fiction, requires several drafts by the writer before it’s ready for an editor.

    Don’t rush. Make sure you’ve said what you intended to say and in a manner that will keep your readers’ attention.

    Once you’ve done several rewrites and several editing passes, try it out on a critique partner or in a writing group. See what feedback you can get, for free, from trusted colleagues. After that you can decide about professional editing or proofreading services.

    A good editor will cost you some money. They’re thorough and thorough means time which means money. Editors are worth their fees, which could be several thousand dollars depending on the length and breadth of a project and on the condition of the manuscript. An edit is an investment.

    The Internet has many, many resources for self-editing and information about editing services. I’ve got lots of articles on this site to help you edit. Use the archive link to find an alphabetical list of articles.

    I wish you much success with this book and all those to follow. Just remember to take your time. Don’t submit your manuscript to publishers before it’s really ready.

  7. Annelise says:

    This was a very helpful article for me because it informed me of my choices and possibilities, as opposed to just saying I wanted to be “an editor.” I am a senior in high school and, with the help of this website, I hope to learn more about the career in which I am looking to enter.

  8. It’s a great profession, Annelise. I hope you enjoy all your preparation for it and every project you work on as an editor.

  9. Rafaela says:

    I am starting a new, small magazine… I’m currently working with graphic designers on the asthetics…. But I was wondering who should be in charge of deciding how many words there should be per page? or who decides on how many columns per page we should have? Is it the designer or the editor?

  10. Rafaela, while I’m sure there should be a collaboration, I’m also sure the editor will want final say. An editor should work with his people, tap into their expertise, but someone’s got to make the decisions.

    Some features may use a larger font, so there’d be less space and probably fewer words. Some features might lean more heavily to graphics and photos, which again would mean fewer words.

    Also, the the nature of the magazine should help guide such decisions. Will readers be reading or looking at the pretty pages? What’s the draw for readers? That’s what you’ll want to play up.

    And you’ll want to leave yourself open for adjustment, especially early on. You’ll know what works when something sells well, generates a lot of feedback, or generates business for your advertisers. If you get bad reviews and negative feedback, you’ll know what doesn’t work.

    I’m sure others could tell you specifics on what to do and what not to do. Plus, check out similar magazines that have great sales. What do they do? How do they balance words and images? And which is more important for the purchaser of the magazine?

    I wish you great success with the new venture.

  11. This was very helpful. It answered the question & described what I do as a freelance editor, yet, I’ve often wondered if I do too much. I wonder though, is there a line an editor must draw when the work becomes more of a rewrite when an author’s manuscript is composed of a bunch of ideas that don’t connect or flow and lack enough information to support a single idea or a theme?

  12. Lauren, I’m all for spelling it out ahead of time with the writer. If a story isn’t yet a story and needs major rewriting, then tell the writer that. If an editor is a ghostwriter and the editor and writer agree that the editor will co-write, then that’s one answer. But if an editor will not be co-writing, then both parties need to know that before the editor begins work on the manuscript. There’s nothing wrong with telling a writer that a story’s not ready for an edit. What’s even better is making suggestions to show him what still needs work.

    If an editor discovers, in the middle of an edit, that the project needs more rewriting than editing, I suggest contacting the writer right away and explaining what’s been discovered. It’s better to have hashed this out before beginning the edit, but if it wasn’t, there’s no reason to not tell the writer what’s going on.

    I’d probably point out areas where rewriting was required, offer suggestions so the writer understood what was needed, and then, depending on how much rewriting was required, either return the manuscript to the writer or continue with the edit.

    Again, the best option is to know what a manuscript requires from the start and plan accordingly. If you don’t actually rewrite (and I’m talking whole chapters or the middle third of the book, not sentences and paragraphs), make sure the writer knows that.

    As for knowing where to draw the line, go back to what you and the writer talked about. What does he expect from you? If he knows you’re not rewriting, just point out areas that require a rewrite.

    Is this what you’ve been doing?

    • Thanks for your reply Beth. Your suggestions are exactly what I do, but I still find myself doing more rewriting than editing. This is the second project from this person who simply does not write well. I have been tempted to say that, but I don’t. Instead of talking over the phone, this time I’ve prepared a list of questions that require in-depth responses (hopefully this will help).

  13. Lauren, you sound like a diligent editor, wanting to give your best to your clients. Going above and beyond assures that your clients get a great edit, but it can be tough for you. I hope you can find a balance that works for you and your clients, though that balance will probably be different with every edit. Maybe you’ll let us know how it works out for you.

  14. LOOLOO says:

    I’m in high school and I love books and reading. I specially love words and I don’t like synonyms. I believe that every word gives a different angle to what your trying to say or describe and that’s what gives every writer their own flavor, their own angle. That’s why every time you pick up a book your looking at the world through somebody else’s eyes. Amazing isn’t it! Anyway I was wondering what can I study if I wish to pursue a career as a fictional editor?

  15. Looloo, words are wonderful, I agree. And powerful too. We can create so much out of a few simple pen strokes. I love the written word.

    If you want to edit fiction, pursue and learn about anything that interests you. Yes, you can study literature and English in college, which will certainly be helpful, but you’ll also want to have broad knowledge of many fields. You may end up editing a novel featuring a circus performer or a photographer or a botanist. You may edit sci-fi one month and romance the next. You will want to be versed in religions and myths and history and science and politics. An editor’s knowledge of and interest in a wide variety of subjects can only be a plus.

    Also, consider a study of languages. Not only does this open you to new cultures, it also gives you a deeper understanding of words and their connections.

    Read the newspaper, read books in genres that aren’t your favorite. Practice by editing a book that’s already been published.

    Write a book yourself. If writing a novel isn’t something you want to do, write short stories. Tackle a novella.

    Study books on the craft of writing. Learn what makes a phrase work. Learn how to manipulate words. Learn grammar rules.

    Pursue your personal dreams, even if they have nothing to do with writing or editing. Fill yourself with those things that satisfy you. Be as well rounded as you can be. Don’t limit yourself.

    I could go on and on about this one. But bottom line? Think broad in interests and detailed in skills. You’ll need both to be a good editor.

    Thanks for asking your question.

  16. Looloo says:

    Thank you so much for replying. You really set my mind at ease. I am curious and thirsty for knowledge so I didn’t want to limit myself to one field of study. I like to know about anything that intrigues me and this could mean history, biology, philosophy, psychology, neurology, nutrition or even dance. I have a friend who is a photographer and a brother who knows all that there is to know about cars sand I think I will be spending a lot of time with them these days trying and pick up what I can.

    About studying languages, well I live in Egypt so English is supposedly my second language plus, I also studied french. I fully understand how that expands and enriches the understanding of words as well as cultures and even people too.

    In the paragraph before the last every word you said went right to my soul! I firmly believe that everyone should know themselves and be true to who they are. This means following your own unique dreams and drowning out the voices that aim to mold you into something else. No culture, society or tradition is worth sacrificing who you are for. Nothing in the world can fill the hollow left by a man’s betrayal of himself.

    I have another question. I wrote a couple of things myself. A few poems, a couple of articles and some random pieces that might develop into a short story someday. Do you have any idea where do I start if I wish to publish any of these?

  17. Looloo, there are so many, many places you can publish. For articles and short stories, look at magazines (print and online). See what kinds of stories they’re looking for. The Internet is a great tool for finding publishing opportunities. Just be sure the magazine or Web site is legitimate. And you could always put stories up on your own Web site. Just keep in mind that publishers are not going to want to publish stories that have already been published. So, use your own Web site to build your brand and for practice; don’t try to sell what you’ve already given away for free.

  18. Tazo says:

    I am currently facing a mid-life crisis of sorts. Except that, I am not at the ‘middle’ of my life but more at ‘one-third’.
    I graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in Interior Design and have been working in the field for the past 4 years. When I finally realized that I could not care less about what couch matches what chair matches what paint matches what not, I decided to do some soul searching. I gave up a well-paid, stable job and am currently hoping to pursue my passion for wordplay and editing.
    My question is, how do I go about this ? I know that I love reading and writing, have a good sense of grammar and a decent vocabulary. However, I lack the technical education.
    Any advice, on how I can move forward and take this up as a professional career, would really help.

  19. Tazo, welcome to the profession! It’s certainly an enjoyable one.

    While I might have counseled hanging on to the other job for a while, until you got established, I can certainly understand wanting to leave an unfulfilling career.

    I’ve got an article that might help you out a bit—Jack of All Trades—but let’s see if I can’t offer a few other tips . . .

    Join a writing group, one that critiques members’ stories. While other writers may not necessarily offer one another the same feedback an editor would, knowing what writers are looking for and what they need would be helpful.

    Take classes on editing and grammar online or at a local college. Enroll in a writing program. Read everything you can on the craft of writing.

    Edit chapters from published books. Edit chapters from writers in that writing group you joined. (No, don’t charge anything yet.)

    Rewrite passages of published stories to change POV or to fit another genre or to change the emotional impact. Learn what changes do to the scene, to the chapter, and to the story as a whole.

    Learn the specifics of the different genres—their needs, expectations, standards and prohibitions.

    Read. Read contemporary fiction and the classics. Pick apart stories to determine what works and what doesn’t.

    Join an editors forum. Join writers forums. See what the issues are for today’s writers and editors.

    Learn your weaknesses and strengthen them. Decide what types of stories you would work on and which you wouldn’t.

    Learn how to encourage writers. Learn how to point out what works. Learn how to make what doesn’t work, work.

    Start editing full manuscripts. For fun. For free. Just start doing it.

    Give yourself the education you said you don’t have. Or enroll in a full program at a college if you can and want to.

    Join writing and editing organizations and attend their conferences. Learn everything you can, but don’t forget you do have to start editing at some point.

    Also, try your hand at writing a novel or novella. If you intend to help writers, knowing what they face during creation is important. And if you intend to help them frame a story, work on pacing, write entertaining fiction, you really should have taken on the whole experience yourself.

    Will you seek publication for your own stories? Maybe not. But writing them will only be a benefit.

    I hope this is enough to get you started. I wish you success with your endeavor.

  20. Sam says:

    I am a junior in high school, and I love to read. I have found that I am very good at proofreading for grammar mistakes as well as at rewording sentences for coherency. My AP Lang teacher says I am pretty good at writing and could be better if I took the time to be. However, I don’t particularly like writing, but I do enjoy editing papers. Do you think one should enjoy writing if one wanted to be an editor?

  21. Sam, while I don’t think you need to aim for being a writer as well as an editor, I do think editors need a love for words and an understanding of what they can accomplish at the hand of a skilled writer.

    While strongly related, writing and editing are different activities and require different skills. Not all writers could edit and not all editors would want to write. If you do want to edit—and I’m talking about something more than proofreading—you’d need to enjoy some aspects of writing, at least for your own mental health. No one needs to work at a job that’s not enjoyable.

    Yet you did say you like rewording sentences. Would you also enjoy helping a writer frame a story? Would you like learning how to write so you could help writers with their craft?

    While you could limit your learning to only some of the skills necessary for editing, you’d miss out on others, skills that would make you a stronger editor and your clients’ manuscripts better stories. If a dislike for writing kept you from learning how to write, how to create phrases that flowed fluidly, how to map out a story or how to link storytelling elements, you would definitely lack skills that would serve an editor well. While you might possibly get by, you’d certainly be handicapped.

    Yet, if what you’re talking about is some desire to write novels, if that’s something you don’t have, that’s not a problem. Yes, you need to know as much about writing as a writer. No, you don’t need to have a burning desire to write novels and be a published author. Writing a novel would certainly be a great experience for you. But it’s definitely not a requirement for an editor.

    I can suggest you learn about all the fields that interest you. Knowledge gives editors an edge, so gain knowledge. And figure out all the areas surrounding words and reading and writing that you do enjoy. See if you can’t find a pursuit that puts both your skills and interests together in one job.

    I wish you a great life and true success in whatever field you ultimately decide on. Thanks for stopping in and letting me know you were here.

  22. Steve Warner says:

    Thanks for this post. I read it, and for some reason it kind of inspired me.

  23. Jeanne says:

    I am older, 59, and need a career change. I proofread mainly, for a sole practitioner lawyer, 20 years ago. He advertised, “extremely accurate typist needed.” I answered his ad, interviewed with him and corrected all the mistakes in his sample letter, and he hired me on the spot. The job ended tragically at the sudden death of my oldest child in 1990. I will not go into what happened then, but it did end. I have since had 2 main careers, including owning my own business for 9 years, and am currently a caregiver for a single elderly man who is 82 and has mild Alzheimer’s. I have been with him for 12 years and will likely be with him until he passes away. After that, I would like to be a proofreader. I have no experience except for that short job in 1990. I absolutely Love doing that! I also love words! I am not sure I could take join lots of writers groups, etc., as you have suggested to some. I am also fairly hard of hearing at this point and this may be a mild handicap in some jobs. Any suggestions?

  24. Jeanne, a career change sounds good. If you’ve been a proofreader before, I don’t see why you can’t do more of that. Plenty of writers are looking for proofreaders.

    You might want to brush up on grammar and punctuation—you could take a course online. You can also find clients online—your hearing loss shouldn’t be a handicap for a proofreader or an editor.

    With all the self-publishing going on, there’s a real need for skilled editors and proofreaders. If you’re interested in proofing fiction, I’d definitely read the same books on writing fiction that writers read. If you want to stick with non-fiction, I’d suggest brushing up on mechanics and the how-tos of labeling graphs and other non-text elements.

    You might even want to look into indexing—you can make extra money if you can put together a decent index.

    Make sure you’ve got a current copy of the Chicago Manual of Style, a current dictionary, and something such as The Copyeditor’s Handbook.

    Don’t be hesitant about doing some work for free to get back into the swing of proofing and then start advertising.

    Best of success to you as you venture into new waters.

  25. I’m glad I stumbled on your blog, Beth. I’ve been editing for 16 years in a small publishing firm. I came into the job after teaching writing for ten years at the college level. The change seemed like a natural one, but I have always wondered about where my editing tendencies lie on the spectrum between proofing and ghostwriting. Over the years I’ve done just about all of the ms-based tasks you describe in your post. I’m going to have to look for a position with a new publisher, and your post helps me get a sense of what kinds of jobs my skills and experience have equipped me to do. Thanks.

  26. Timothy, I wish you success in finding a new position and excelling at it. After more than 25 years working with writers, you no doubt have some outstanding skills to bring to writers and their projects. I’m glad you found something encouraging and useful here.

  27. Becoming an editor is something I never would have thought I would consider, but here I am, looking up what it’s all about.

    For roughly 97% of my life, I’ve despised—or convinced myself that I despised—writing. However, over the past six months, I’ve realized that I was horribly, stupidly wrong. I just hated what I was forced to write in school. Now that I’m out of high school, I see that writing is not just not bad, but it can be fun too! A whole new world opened up to me and it was strange and wonderful and… rife with typos. These were not necessarily my typos, mind you—not that I don’t make any, I am only human—but actively writing got me to notice them in others’ writing.

    Perhaps I should mention where I was seeing these problems. Skip to the next paragraph if you’re already familiar with bronies. Still here? Time for things to get a little… weird. Long story short, bronies are people who like My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic and are outside the target demographic. Fan art, fan music, fan animations (up to and including a full-length episode), charities, and fan websites are just some of the things we have to offer. Yes, we, for I am one of them, and I contribute in my own way.

    How do I fit in? Well, as you may have suspected or gathered, I am connected with fan fiction. In the fan fiction community, I have two additive capacities; I edit (as a combination copy/manuscript editor and proofreader) and I write. (I also read a lot, 10.4 M words since 30th Jun 2012.) I take what I edit seriously, and I try to do a professional-level job. However, I am worried. Will anyone looking at me see anything more than stories about magical equines? I honestly doubt that any prospective employer would, and that’s a shame, considering the time and effort that I have put into a good deal of stories.

    Rereading what I have written, this comes across rather like a rant with the intent to gain sympathy. That’s not what I wanted, so I’ll get to the point.
    Do you think that it might be a good idea to “de-ponify”, that is to swap equine anatomy, manes, hooves, withers, ect. and commonly ponified phrases for their human analogues, a story (stories) that I have worked on and show that to anyone? (I would, of course, get the author’s permission first.)

    I’d be very grateful for the input of an actual editor on this matter.
    Sorry for the text wall. I hope you have a good day.

  28. Andre, are you asking whether or not you should take what you’ve edited for others to a prospective employer in the editing field? I would say definitely not.

    While it’s okay to show your own work—what you have both written and edited—it’s wouldn’t be right to share someone else’s work. No one else needs to see the before condition of writing that you’ve edited. This has nothing to do with the types of writing you’ve edited and everything to do with the trust relationship between you and the writer. If you ask for permission, the writer might feel compelled to say yes. With the request alone, you might plant seeds of mistrust in the writer’s mind—will he show my unpolished work to someone else?

    That said, if you solicited some throwaway text that you could edit, that’s a different story. The writer would know up front what you will be doing with their work.

    I also can’t see any reason why a prospective employer would request something such as this from you. They might ask for a list of books, manuscripts, or stories you worked on and you could direct them to a fan fiction website where they could see your work, if the site is a public one. But beyond that, it’s not likely they’d ask.

    They might ask you to show them what you could do using a text sample that they prepared, but I’m not sure what kind of vetting you’d actually go through. I’ve always been freelance, so I’ve never had to prove myself to a publishing company. But you can bet they wouldn’t hire you if they thought you were showing the before and after of a writer’s story. You don’t want to betray the confidence of a writer.

    I hope somewhere in all this was an answer you could use.

    • Oh, I wouldn’t be showing the before and after. That would be wrong on so many levels. No, I would show them the finished product… which, now that I think about it, wouldn’t be that great at all. With no reference of where that piece started, they wouldn’t be able to see how much of its polish came from me and how much was there originally. However, I do have some of my own work that I could show them, so I suppose that is an option.

      Sorry for that question. In retrospect, I see how stupid it was.

      However, I believe I have a better question this time.

      You mentioned that you’re a freelance editor. How does that (or, in this case, how do you) work? Do you go to people and offer your services, or do they come to you? Is it some combination of both?

      “I also can’t see any reason why a prospective employer would request something such as this from you.”

      The thing is, I have no real idea what to expect, and that made sense to me at the time. Now, though, it’s cringeworthy.

      I only started thinking about this seriously a month ago, two tops. I’ll probably be poking around your site in the near future, trying to get a better feel for what I’m actually contemplating. After all, having more information is important.

      The editing of a sample text sounds simultaneously simple and complicated. In concept, it makes far more sense than what I thought, but in practice… Well, depending on how wrong it is, there could be many different ways for it to be edited. In the case of a ton of missing commas, do you just add them in, or do you try to rework the sentence to not need them? What if there are a bunch of comma splices? Do you change them to periods or semicolons or reword the sentences until the commas work? I suppose that would be something the editing company would be interested in knowing, that is, how your style of editing would mesh with their conventions.

      (Thinking more on this, they probably wouldn’t give out something that has nearly as many errors as I often see. I’m assuming, or at least hoping, that professional authors know what they’re doing most of the time but just lack the critical distance to pick out certain problems.)

      Thanks for taking the time to respond to my silly, uneducated question.
      Have a nice day.

  29. Andre, every question is worth an answer, so never stop asking. That’s how we get knowledge.

    As for how I meet clients, they come to me. Besides this blog, I have a website for my editing business. Plus I get referrals from other writers.

    Editing is a great career, and I love what I do. I hope you find it something that suits you.

  30. Can you help me get started? I have written about having encephalitis and am near ready to move towards publication. I have spent my life as an occupational therapist, then as a hospital administrator and then started my own business in care management. Within hours my world turned around with the onset of encephalitis. My book would be called “I Live One Day At A Time” and would be a helpful book for all who want to learn how to adjust to the immediate onset of a disabling condition from both the perspective of a care giver and care getter. I need to find an editor who can teach me about what I need to do next. Can you suggest websites or ways of finding a good editor?

  31. Gee Gee, I’m so sorry to hear about the encephalitis, glad to hear you’ve found a way to help others deal with it. Try the Editorial Freelancers Association for help in finding a non-fiction editor. You’ll probably be able to find one who’s edited books on medical issues.

    There are plenty of websites, including this one, that offer suggestions for making a manuscript strong. Many of them, unfortunately for your needs, deal specifically with fiction. But you should be able to pick up a lot of general writing tips as well. Consider joining an online writing group as well. I’m certain there are some that focus on non-fiction.

    I wish you great success.

  32. Shazia says:


    Your article is worth reading. I am a teacher, have completed my Masters in English Literature, teaching is my profession but not passion. I’ve good symbolic approach in all four integrated skills, can also write small articles, travel writings and love books. I feel that I can see things from different perspectives.
    I’m stuck with in my thoughts, want to change my profession but because of lack of opportunities in my country ,Pakistan, I am unable to name that creativity, exist in me.
    there is a job for an editor, but I am hesitating to send my resume there. Being an editor, do you think that my qualification and creativity allows me to do so….?
    your humble answers to all above, forced me to ask you.
    waiting for your reply.
    Thank You.

  33. Shazia, I’d like to advise you to follow your heart and skills, knowing that’s where you’ll be happy. Have you done any editing, tried to see if you’d be any good at it? Not knowing the job situation where you are, I hesitate to advise you to throw away a job that pays when you don’t know if you’ll like editing.

    But if it would be easy for you to return to teaching if you had to, then it might be worth changing fields. I just wouldn’t want to see you unhappy in a new job.

    But editing is wonderful. There’s something new every day. If teaching isn’t your passion and you can pursue that passion, this may be the perfect opportunity to do exactly that. I’m only hesitant about counsel you to jump in boldly because I don’t know what you’d be giving up. We all do have to pay the bills.

    Let us know what you decide.

  34. Yuta says:

    Apparently, I’m one of those people who search “what does an editor do?”

    The thing is, I’m hiring writers for one of my websites and I’ve been wondering if what I am doing is editing. Now I know that what I am doing is a type of editing. I don’t edit the text but I give them article titles and general instructions.

    Anyway, thank you for helpful information!

  35. Yuta, you are indeed one type of editor, one who oversees and directs writers and their articles. Good luck with the website. I hope your writers give you solid and entertaining content.

  36. Latoya says:

    I have been a 5th grade teacher for the past 5 years and in the education field for 14 years. I’m thinking about changing careers and becoming an editor. Do you think I have enough experience? If so, where would be the best place to start looking for employment?

  37. Latoya, if I were you and thought I might want to edit, I’d start editing now, before leaving the teaching job. Edit a published book that you think could have been written better. Join a writing group that critiques. Read everything you can on writing and editing fiction. And then edit something else that’s been published. Before you start looking for employment in the field, do some editing. See if you like it. See if you’re any good at it.

    I wish you success.

  38. Latoya says:

    Do you have any suggestions of some good writing groups?

    • There are great groups everywhere. If you check out some of the major organizations—Romance Writers of America (of many countries), Mystery Writers of America, Science Fiction Writers of America (I’ve got links to all three of these in my sidebar)—they should be able to point you in the right direction. There are many online groups you can join—just Google your genre and see what you can find.

      But also look for a group that meets near you. Check with your local library or just Google writing groups and your town name.

    • Latoya says:

      Ok thank…..I really appreciate it!!

  39. Annabella says:

    Recently I have discovered as well as remembered things about myself that have encouraged me to look for descriptions about jobs in editing. I am a year from graduating from college for my Bachelor’s in History; and finally this summer I’ve started searching for very much needed advice.
    I’m one of those people that communicates better through writing than talking face to face; and unknowingly sometimes I get tongue-tied especially when answering a question. So, I’ve thought maybe my fluency in Spanish and English could be the cause for that as I cannot think of any other reason. I also tend to look for spelling and grammar errors in people’s work and think of different words and ways that statements, either said or written, could have been arranged. And I’ve read in a few books that editors do these kinds of things.
    I believe I would like to experiment with the editor field before graduating to find out whether it truly is what I am looking for. But I am afraid of making a decision without knowing someone that has been where I want to go.
    I’d greatly appreciate your reply.
    Thank you.

  40. Annabella, do you have specific questions I can answer for you? What topics would you like to know about? Editing is enjoyable, but that’s because I love it. Everyone should find a career that fulfills and challenges them.

    • Annabella says:

      Thanks again for replying.
      Now I realize I didn’t exactly include a question in my first comment.
      In the past few days I have been reading about the editing profession and I believe it fits me. And now I need to ask, how do I become an editor? What could I do in regards to my school work? And if I am not hired on the first few tries because I lack experience, what could I do to gain experience?

  41. Latoya says:

    Ok…..thanks for responding!!!

  42. Annabella, since you’re still in school, consider taking some courses that interest you, some that have nothing to do with your major. Give yourself an exposure to unusual fields and to a variety of fields. Pick up an extra literature class. Or, if your school offers them, try a writing class or two or three. If there’s a class on the elements of fiction, take it. Or look for classes through your college’s extension program. (Take a grammar class if you haven’t had one lately.)

    Also, volunteer at your school’s writing center—plenty of students need help with writing. You can’t edit their work, but you can give them pointers, something you’ll need to do as an editor as well.

    Join a writing and/or critique group and get practice evaluating a manuscript.

    And read everything you can about what goes into creating quality writing. If you’re specifically looking at fiction, read all the books on the craft of fiction that you can find. Many are available through libraries. Learn what works and what doesn’t and why, and also learn how to fix what doesn’t work. You can give yourself a great education by working your way through all the craft books.

    And do some editing. Look at articles online and edit them. Pull out a book and start editing. Get a book of short stories and edit them.

    If you want to edit, you’ve got to start somewhere. You can’t expect to get paid to edit unless you’ve got some experience—a writing or critique group is a perfect place to gain experience. Maybe a member of a writing group would let you practice with a discarded manuscript—you can always ask.

    Don’t wait. If you think you want to edit, start editing.

  43. verneda says:

    I am a senior in high school and would like to become an Acquisitions editor for fiction I know I need a minimum of a bachelors degree I also know ill need to work my way up but what will that be exactly? Will I need to be a good writer even though ill be reading manuscripts?

  44. Verneda, I’m not sure what each publishing expects or how they promote, but knowledge of a wide range of topics and of writing and fiction will be helpful. It’s not likely you’ll only ever be an acquisitions editor, so learn as much about fiction and publishing as you can. As an acquisitions editor you may well need to be able to make suggestions to your authors. If you don’t know how to strengthen a manuscript, you won’t be able to tell a writer what they might need to try. Definitely learn some of the ins and outs of writing and fiction.

    You might want to check out this article on What an Editor Should Study, at least as a starting point.

    Good luck with your choices and your career path. I hope you’re successful.

  45. Ken Sumner says:

    I live in a gated which publishes a monthly newspaper of happenings in our community along with ads for businesses wishing to do business here. For a number of years our newspaper had a page for reporting religious articles in which there was mentioning God, prayer and scripture verses. The religious page also publishes times for meetings of different faiths within the community. Is it the responsibility of the editor to allow or disallow such reporting.

  46. Ken Sumner says:

    I live in a gated community which publishes a monthly newspaper of happenings in our community along with ads for businesses wishing to do business here. For a number of years our newspaper had a page for reporting religious articles in which there was mentioning God, prayer and scripture verses. The religious page also publishes times for meetings of different faiths within the community. Is it the responsibility of the editor to allow or disallow such reporting.

  47. Ken, that is indeed another task for editors. They have a wide range of duties.

  48. Rebecca says:

    Hi Beth,
    Thank you so much for such an informative blog. If you have a moment, would you mind answering one of my questions?
    I’m a second year English major undergraduate student and I’m in the process of applying for co-op positions in my field. My ‘dream come true’ career goal is to be a fiction editor, but right now I’m at point ‘A’ and I can see point ‘Z’ but there’s an awful lot in between. I’ve read your responses to everyone else’s questions, but are there any specific starting employment positions that you would recommend that would allow me to work my way up the career ladder to a fiction editor?
    Thank you so much for your time.

  49. We came to know wonderful things form your blog.
    Very nice blog.

  50. Laura says:

    Dear Beth,

    I’m currently a substitute teacher with a bachelor’s degree in elementary education. It’s now been 3 years since I graduated college, and I’m both frustrated by not being able to get a full-time teaching position and more recently, pretty sure that the education field isn’t the right fit for me. This past January I was thrown into a long-term substitution position very suddenly for a teacher that was forced to leave due to criminal charges. I thought my passion for teaching was enough to get me through that difficult situation but I wasn’t able to handle it, and it made me rethink my career choices.

    I’ve just (tonight) begun to research editing and am another person that googled “what does an editor do” to find your blog. So my question is, do you think my background in education would help me get into some sort of career in editing? I had an interest in writing in high school but it’s not something that I’ve worked on since then. I’ve always loved reading and language and enjoyed proofreading and offering help with my friends’ writing as well as student works while I’ve been subbing.

    I was also hoping that you could tell me if I would require additional formal education to pursue a career in this field. I don’t currently have the funds to pay for college courses since substituting doesn’t pay the greatest.

    I’m still trying to figure out if this is even something that I want to do. Would you happen to have any tips that could help me decide? Should I try to shadow an editor to see the kind of work they do?

    Thank you for your time!

    • Laura, I certainly hope you find the career that fits. I’m convinced we are much happier when we’re doing what challenges and fulfills us.

      You don’t necessarily need more formal education to be an editor, but you may need to learn more about writing and, if you’re looking at fiction editing, more about fiction and story and the elements of a novel.

      Start your own studies. Read all the books on writing and self-editing. Learn how to put stories together and what works and what doesn’t. Join a writers group.

      And start editing. Pull out a few published books and edit them. Look for plot weaknesses and problems with characters. Look for an overbalance of elements. See what works and what doesn’t. Try to identify problems. Then open some more books and edit those. Download e-books that look like they haven’t been edited and see what you can do with them.

      You are editing for yourself with these and of course you wouldn’t approach the authors or comment to anyone else concerning what you’re doing—you’re not trying to prove an author wrong, simply trying to hone your skills. You may find books where you wouldn’t change a word, though that’s not likely. But you will develop a sense for creating multiple options that are all suitable for the same story.

      Once you gain some competency in editing, go to a writing or critique group and ask if you can edit a few chapters of someone’s work. Tell the group what you’re working toward. Make no promises for the edits. And then ask to edit more.

      And read, read, read. Any and everything. Analyze books to understand why they work and why they don’t.

      Editing takes practice. You’ve actually got to do it. And practicing with already published books is a great way to learn.

      Practicing with short stories would also be helpful since you can easily see how a change in one page affects other story elements. But if you plan to edit novels, you’ll need to practice with long fiction at some point. There are so many parts to novels that are not included in shorter fiction that you’ve got to practice with novels themselves.

      Also, determine if you want to edit or proofread; the two are not the same. See which one appeals more.

      As for shadowing an editor? I don’t know that such a thing would work. It depends on the kind of editor, I suppose. If you shadowed a developmental or substantive error, you’d end up sitting next to him or her at a computer much of the time.

      Let us know how your journey into editing progresses. I’d be curious to see what path you take. And best of success to you.

  51. Temmy says:

    Thank you for all the details. I’m actually going to be interviewed regarding this profession today, and would want to know what editors really do daily. So what are the qualifications needed to be an editor? I am used to teaching English and translating documents in English to my mother tongue language and vice versa, but have never been an editor myself.

    • Temmy, how was the interview? I hope it went well.

      Depending on the type of editor and the job situation, an editor’s daily tasks could be quite different from one editor to the next. If you work freelance, you’ll be editing and making suggestions and answering e-mails and doing lots of research. You’ll be looking up facts and the spelling of odd words and you’ll be checking out professions and jobs you know nothing about solely to make sure a manuscript’s facts are truly factual.

      If you work for a publisher, you may actually work on manuscripts, editing them, or you may read manuscripts to decide if any should be pursued by your company. Or you may find yourself in meetings much of the day, trying to determine which stories your company should pursue and how they should be pursued. You may be deal more with the business of the company than with the writers and their projects.

      Many editors work their way into the position from a reader or proofreader—again it depends on what type of editor you’re talking about. Seldom does any editor only sit with a manuscript all day, giving it her full attention. That’s part of the job, especially with substantive and developmental editors. But as a writer does much more than solely write, so an editor does much more than solely edit a manuscript.

      Much of any one of my days may be spent passing e-mails with my clients, answering questions or helping them work out an issue. I also often point out the reasons behind editing suggestions—explaining the fiction or writing issues that are involved and why one edit option may be better for a scene than another would be.

      If you want to work with writers and their manuscripts directly, you may want to pursue a freelance career. That way, you’ll actually be editing manuscripts.

      Let us know how you get on with your pursuit of a position.

  52. Meg Ruede says:

    Thank you for quelling my fears of submitting my book. I am a health and wellness coach and would like to reach a much larger audience. I know what I’m talking about, but am not confident in getting my thoughts on paper (tablet). I’m super stoked and am forging ahead now!

  53. Reditor says:

    I’m only a Junior in high school, considering becoming an editor. I love reading and writing, and whenever I read I always tend to go over passages more than once and learn from the grammar. I’m far from honing any grammar skills, but I do find an interest in finding grammatical errors. Is there a position in editing where the editor only finds grammatical errors, more so in books?

    • Reditor, you may be thinking of a proofreader or a copy editor rather than a content editor. Yet even people in these positions would do more than check only grammar.

      Best of success to you as you pursue the profession.

  54. Annabelle says:

    Thanks for the enlightenment on editors. My question then is, can the writer of an organizational newsletter be her editor as well? It’s the norm to see ‘editor’ instead of ‘writer’ on newsletter. In an organization with a communications unit, where one writes, takes pictures and designs a corporate newsletter (without adverts) but only hands the ready material to the printer, what is that person called? 2ndly, kindly enlighten on editorial board, its membership and functions. Thank you

    • Annabelle, I’d guess that the person who handles everything for a newsletter would also be the editor since he or she is responsible for the content and the layout. This person might well be called managing editor or just plain editor.

      An editorial board would simply be a group that makes the decisions regarding a publication’s content and direction and focus. All of them may also be responsible for actually writing editorials (newspaper op-ed pages) that declare and/or promote the publication’s viewpoint. For periodicals, they, instead of an editor or with the editor, may be the ones to choose content or decide on themes for different issues.

      Editorial boards are often made up of subject matter specialists with special interests.

      The New York Times’s editorial department is separate from their news division. They currently have 18 journalists on their board.

      The L.A. Times currently has 10 members on their board. From their website—“The editorial board opines on the important issues of the day – exhorting, explaining, deploring, mourning, applauding or championing, as the case may be.”

  55. Linda says:

    What a great site. Your enthusiasm is contagious. I’m hoping you can share your thoughts on a particular situation I’m facing.

    I’ve been trying to get a freelance editing business off the ground for…well…longer than I care to admit. I belong to an editors’ association and bid on job postings from time to time–to date, with no success. Recently, I responded to a request for an estimate to proofread an elderly woman’s memoir. I’ve had no reply and can’t say whether she hired a different editor or not but, in retrospect, I realize this would have been a good opportunity to offer to do the job for free. My question is, would it be tacky to offer to do the job for free after having bid on it?

    Should I follow up with her and inquire as to whether or not she found an editor, and offer to do it for free, if she hasn’t? On one hand, it seems like I’ve got nothing to lose. On the other, I wonder if it would hurt my credibility. Also, I’m not exactly sure how I’d explain my change of heart on the matter. Any thoughts you might have would be very much appreciated. Thanks.

    • Linda, your question is tougher than a complex grammar one.

      I can only give you some thoughts—you’re going to have to decide this one on your own.

      My first thought is to just leave it as is. You made your decision, and she probably already made hers. Going after her may make you seem desperate. Instead of following after her, just accept that you might have made a mistake.

      But why would you do it for free? If you’re bidding, you want to stay in line with what others are charging. Your time and skills are worth payment.

      But if you need to jump in and actually do some editing, get involved with a writing or critique group. Be a part of the group—don’t just promote your services, but get involved. At the same time, offer special edit prices for group members or for seniors. Be consistent in how you offer discounts.

      This way you at least get some editing in. And the writers that you edit may start passing your name around to other groups they’re involved with.

      Do you have a web presence? If so, give away a free edit of the first 30 or 50 pages for one lucky visitor to your blog or website. Promote this wherever you have connections and get people to come to your website.

      Visit other blogs and leave comments. You don’t have to overtly promote yourself, just make yourself known. And draw people to you.

      Connect with writing resource centers at local colleges or high schools—that kind of help you can give away for free. You may make connections that lead to paying jobs.

      Teach a workshop or present a program at your library or for other writing groups in your area. Make yourself available and get your name out there.

      But back to the client who isn’t a client . . . I was going to say that she might come back to you, asking questions, and if so, that would be the time to tell her you wanted to do something special for her in terms of price. But every time I think of suggesting this, it seems wrong.

      You’d have to tell her why you want to edit her work for free. And what do you say? Do you tell her you don’t have any clients? Do you imply that you think that because of her age she couldn’t afford the edit fee? Neither option seems like a good idea. And no matter what you say, you run the risk of her feeling that you weren’t honest with your first quote, that you’re just “making a deal” to get the job.

      I have to admit that while helping someone out is a good impulse, the ways this could possibly play out, and not to your favor, have me suggesting that you just leave the whole thing as is. If she comes back, then you have a client. If she doesn’t, she still has a positive memory of her experience with you, one that might lead her to contacting you in the future.

      Is that any help?

  56. Linda says:

    I’m astonished by the fertility of your mind. By comparison, my thoughts seem stuck, perhaps as a result of trying for so long and not getting anywhere, or maybe simply because I haven’t been involved enough. I recognize that I have to do things differently and your feedback helps a lot in that respect.

    I’m afraid I didn’t explain my rationale very well as to why I’d offer free editing to this non-client. The idea occurred to me when I read your suggestion to someone else here who was just starting out, which I likened to my trying to freshen up a career that has been inactive for a couple of years. In fact, think volunteer editing–for which there is ample opportunity–might be another way.

    In any case, you’ve addressed my principle concern and confirmed my gut instinct that it probably wouldn’t look too good to chase after the non-client. I’d been thinking of explaining my reaching out to her as being based on my love of women’s stories and how I think they should be recorded and preserved. But I’ll do as you suggest and leave it as it is.

    A different part of the challenge I’m facing is that I’m fairly new in a very small (and insular) town. I’ve been able to make my way into local groups, but it takes time to be accepted and trusted, so it’s a slow process (and I’m in a hurry). But I’m not giving up yet; I just need to put some other things in place to make my presence known, as you suggest.

    Until now I’ve been on the fence about whether or not I really need a blog or website, but I gather you recommend it so I’ll give that some serious thought.

    Thanks so much for your wonderful (and timely) feedback and for pointing me in the right direction.

    • Linda, I hope a fertile mind is a good thing. (And, yes, I’m smiling.)

      I’d guessed you were thinking of offering a free edit as a way to get back into the swing of editing, but the time to do that would be before you offer a quote.

      Definitely get a web presence going. If you plan to edit for writers outside of your small town, you need to make yourself known. Give writers a way to find you.

      I hope you find great success and satisfaction as you get back into editing. It’s such a fulfilling career.

      • Linda says:

        Oh, yes, it’s definitely a good thing.

        Your input has been a great injection of ideas.

        Many thanks for your kind words and good wishes. Best to you as well.

  57. Hi Beth,
    Thank you so much for the world of information on your pages. You have an amazing knowledge of what needs to be done…and how. I self published my first true crime book about my life as a female bailbondsman…not the pap you see on tv. The real stuff. In its third printing, but not much money so far. My fault…too busy pursuing my 30 year occupation, profession, love affair with the craziness of it all…being a private investigator.Slowing down now and have first draft of a 360 page true crime story invoking many of my real life adventures.
    Also heavily involved in a sequel to Bail Bonds Babylon and having a lotof fun with it. Met a great editor from LA and we are working out details of her total edit of the second book. What an inspiration you are to new writers, would-be editors and all of us out there dallying with the written word.
    Thank you again

  58. Laura, thank you; what nice things to hear.

    Here’s to great success with your new projects. I hope you have a marvelous long-term relationship with your editor.

  59. Xahida says:

    Thanks for such a comprehensive article. I am new into the field of copyediting. Before entering this profession, I have been an English language teacher. Also, I have done some freelance writing and editing. But i’m not satisfied yet with my skill in the area. How can I enhance my copyediting skills to excel in my profession? Could you also suggest some authentic yet affordable courses in copyediting.
    Looking forward to your response.
    Thank you!

  60. Thanks for this article . Got to know about new things that can make my posts better.. I am new to blogging and this information will really help me.. Very useful article it is.

  61. firstediting says:

    Your article are very useful for editing services. Thanks for Sharing this.

  62. Mo says:

    This is very helpful. Thank you!

  63. Sharon says:

    Hi! I just found your blog and it has interested me in many ways. This was very informative and I found it to be quite helpful compared to other websites. I just have a quick question: I would love to edit books! But are there different types of editors for a book, like a primary editor and a proof reader, etc..? I am still in high school and I think I would enjoy this occupation but I am trying to decide which type I would enjoy the most.

  64. firstediting says:

    Thanks for the information. It is very helpful. Your article are very useful for editing services.

  65. john bentley says:

    I have just written a first novel. A mystery thriller of 500 pages linking Tudor times to today . I employed an editor who was recommended to me and having taken my script I heard nothing from her until she returned it with entire chapters struck out or transposed along with whole paragraphs while replacing many words with almost identical one of her own choice and effectively superimposing a boring tone in which her own views on life came very apparent.
    The changes were so great it was almost impossible to compare to my own book. Her fee was $3000 and I feel that she should have asked me beforehand what sort of edit I wanted and taken time to explain by meeting me or on the phone what she saw as her job and the changes she was likely to make, before she made them.
    I have subsequently made only a few changes and published on Google as my experience tells me that my editor had a pre-formed view of how a book should be written and was not prepared to go along with any change from the norm, especially if it is controversial as my book The Royal Secret is. My belief is that online publishing gives huge opportunity for styles of books which would previously never got past a publisher or editor and it is why the book publishing industry was shooting itself in the foot with conformist standards which are now passé.

    • John, I’m sorry that your experience with an editor wasn’t a positive one. I hope that you’ll have other opportunities to take advantage of an editor’s skills and suggestions.

      Getting a sense of the kinds of suggestions and comments an editor will make is helpful for a writer. The next time you engage an editor, ask for a sample edit. I can’t imagine that any editor wouldn’t provide a sample of their work. It will contain only a handful of edited pages, that’s true, but it’s likely you’ll also receive notes on general issues. And if the editors you approach are like me, you also might receive suggestions for rewriting before the editor takes on the work. Some manuscripts are simply not ready for an edit, and a reputable editor will inform the writer of that fact. Not all editors have time to go into detail about problem issues for a project they won’t be editing, but it’s likely that many will at least point out some options and resources.

      I wish you success with your writing career. And I hope you find an editor and other resources to help you advance that career. While I agree that online publishing opens doors to more writers, I honestly don’t think that most editors and publishers are trying to impose their opinions or outdated standards on writers. Most are simply trying to put out a good product, one they recognize through experience and knowledge of the marketplace.

      Publishers like controversial books—they bring attention, readers, and money. But a controversial book still must be well written and must do all those things that great books do in order to keep readers turning pages. A good book must entertain and touch reader emotions. It must make readers care about characters and what happens to them. It must keep the reader wondering and curious. And it must do all of these things clearly, in ways easily understood by the multitude of readers. A good editor makes sure that a writer’s great idea accomplishes what it needs to in order to become a great piece of fiction (or even just an entertaining read).

      The truth is that writers need that extra eye to help them see the weaknesses—and the strengths—of their own stories. When we write, we’re often too close to see what’s missing, too close to see how a story would be better served by a few judicious cuts. And whether a writer hires an editor or takes advantage of a great critique partner, every writer could use an outside eye to read and then report back on the strengths and weaknesses of a story.

      Thanks for dropping in and sharing your experience.

  66. KKNikki says:

    Hi, I have always thought I wanted to be a teacher, even going so far as to attend a high school for teaching, but now I have realized I want to work in editing. I always wanted to be involved in English, but I always thought it was going to be by teaching it. I am now in my senior year in high school, and I have realized that I want to be an editor. I have always loved grammar and proof reading. I analyze books all the time and am an avid reader. I live in Las Vegas, and I want to work for a publishing firm for non-fiction books. How should I go about this? What should I major in and what classes should I take? Should I move somewhere with more publishing companies, like New York? Do I need to intern? Also, what are some colleges you would recommend, and how did u get into the editing field? Is it hard to find a job in the field after getting a degree? Sorry to bombard you with questions; any help answering any of them would be greatly appreciated. Thanks

  67. Maria says:

    Hi, I’m a junior high school student. Your article really helps me to clarify many things. I love reading and writing but I’m not sure of what to study. Another problem is that English isn’t my first language but I enjoy reading in English than my first language. I started to search universities outside my country. I really want to know if studying abroad will be a good idea. What do you think? Is it a good idea?

  68. Am trizah,i have done accounting,food and beverage and i have never thought of being an editor in my life as my career,it has been happening that whenever i write something even if is a comment to people or a company where i have been working,they ask me if i have been writing novels or stories in my life of which that is something i have never thought,,,,i assumed for the first time,it happens again in the same company when my manger requested me to leave a comment on my performance review,i took 1 minute to comment after reading,he told me he give me 1 day to write something about my department and submit it to him as soon as possible,as soon as i finished took it to him and without my knowledge he post it to the company pulse of that month ,what surprised me is that everybody was curious to know who wrote that,they added and said,it very clear and make somebody to have a clear picture of how her department is as well as straight to the point no need of explanation,people have been commenting about everything i write or post and they conclude that i have a hidden talent that am yet to realize and they say i was born to be an editor.kindly give me the feedback immediately you get it.
    kind regards

    • Trizah, it sounds as if you have a talent for writing and or editing. Why not see what you can do with your talent, maybe take some classes and add some new skills to those you already have. Talent is good and gets you started, but to write and/or edit, you’ll need some specific skills as well.

      I wish you success.

  69. I am a professionally trained proofreader and an experienced copy-editor. I have a real passion for the written word. I keep my prices low, because of my firm belief that no book should go to the publisher unedited.

    [Remainder of the comment was deleted because of its ad-like quality.]

    • Carol, I agree that all books should be edited—a great book deserves a great edit.

      I hope your passion for editing makes you very successful and that you continue to edit for many years.

      (Since I don’t include ads on this blog, I’m sure you understand why I edited your comment.)

  70. Qin says:


    It’s hard for me to express my thoughts to a stranger, so please forgive my subsequent lack of eloquence. Perhaps this isn’t the right place, but I feel that if I don’t speak now I won’t ever.

    I’m someone suicidal who has writing as a solace. I read your article and felt editing could be something for me.

    I started reading and writing when I was young and because I’m in a South-east Asian country, I was one of the better English writers. For some reason I lacked interest in life, and the strict system in the country, and I ended up in one of the ‘worse’ classes in primary school. Somehow I became class editor, which was the first of my editing experience and people would queue to have their compositions edited by me.

    I’m much more a writer than an editor, but I don’t want to become a writer. I have a severe lack of self-confidence due to a childhood incident and mental abuse by my mother and bullying. People say I should become a writer, but I can’t see myself writing a book and putting it out to sell, especially where I live.

    But I’ve actually only had a few experiences with editing, I never thought much of it, it was just something I did because people wanted me to, just like how I taught people who asked and was told I was a good teacher.

    I came across your blog because a friend told me my critical dissection of her story was better than the workshop she attended. I was searching for information on critics because I’ve been doubting my major, and somehow got to editing – and realized it’s what I’ve been doing at times.

    Although I only edit when I’m asked to, I love writing and I love words. I’ve chosen psychology as my major (which I’m starting to doubt) which was the only thing I could find interest in, for the (academic) literature course in my university limited my point of views and writing style. I feel like words can tell a lot about a person, and the characters and their mental state.

    Your post on Nanowrimo and Jack of all trades got me thinking. My interest in writing faded due to flames and cyber bullying for the second time, but I thought back to all those unfinished works. I write fanfiction, so 50 000 words is not much to me, but I always seem to lose interest in my own work.

    One thing I’ve found, is that I want to help people. For some reason, perhaps because I was ‘mature’ for my age, people came to me for help on not only studying but personal problems. I couldn’t help myself, so I thought I could at least help others. I have more interest in the writing of others than my own, and I seem to have the skill of reading people (which facilitated my interest in psychology) from my years of social exclusion, so it just seemed editing could be a job for me. I also have a lot of random information, psychics, psychology, philosophy, history, because I’m always trying to find something that can catch and hold my interest. I’ve tried the piano, guitar, Japanese, drawing, etc, like a jack of all trades.

    I see my writing has turned out disjointed, perhaps because I’m lacking sleep, so I’ll try to get to the main point. My concern is that I only have love in writing, I don’t know anything solid or the fundamentals of writing and editing. I learnt to read on my own when I was 5, and since then I’ve had perfect grammar but I’m not sure of the rules. I’ve written a lot of fanfiction and I do get many views and positive feedback, but I don’t do drafts. I only know I’m doing something right because people seem to think so and it feels that way. I’m not sure how but people tell me they can feel the emotions and understand the thoughts of the characters. And when I did get a beta/editor for one story, they didn’t edit much. For my latest editing experience I just read through the short story, and said what I thought, starting with a list of 10 points I found problems with and how to correct a few of them and somehow was told it was an ‘eye-opening dissection’. So I’m not sure if I’m qualified for a job in editing with such lackadaisical experience.

    Despite being drawn to writing, I’m studying psychology in the best university in my country. I’m in my third year but am on a medical leave due to long lasting physical health problems, the major one which could take about 5 years before the operation can be done. It just seems there are many obstacles which I don’t quite know how to deal with, so I don’t know if this can even be an endeavor. I always wanted to be a psychologist, but when I learnt it would take 10 years to be one, it just seemed like too much time. But I wanted to be a psychologist because I spent most of my life helping people, and it seemed like the perfect job. I wanted to have something worthwhile for not being able to enjoy my teenage years (helping people after I was being bullied) like everyone else and my childhood.

    That’s why if there’s another way I can help people, I would want to give it a shot. You mentioned editing is helping the writer. I prefer to be in the background and help someone else shine than shine myself, so perhaps editing could be for me. Because when I read the part about being a fiction editor, it was what I did for that editing request, without knowing until now.

  71. VanJe Peate says:

    I have finished writing a book in Microsoft Office it has 95 pages and 5,3169 words.I also have applied for copyright and purchased ISBN. There are so many packages out there and I’m needing to have it edited by a substantive editor. Is 95 pages considered a small book? This is my first book and I wrote it because I have a story to tell. It is not an autobiography, it is a love story of an older retired couple. There are so many stories about the young, but, older love exists looking at the millennium living today, they have stories too. I have done several proof reading and made many correction, but, I still need to have it edited. Do you feel that finding an editor at this point is the next step before publishing?

    • VanJe, you’ll probably want to put the manuscript aside for a few weeks. Don’t look at it and don’t think about it. Then go back and read it. It’s likely that it needs rewriting.

      Also consider joining a writing or a critique group so other writers can give you an idea of what areas may need some work. After that, you’ll probably want to go back and read it again to make your own changes.

      After this, it may be time to contact an editor. You could hire one earlier in the process, but it’s likely you’ll want to wait until you’ve rewritten and edited the manuscript yourself.

      It’s the word count rather than the page count you’ll want to consider. Fifty-three thousand words is low for a novel but could work for other types of books. Is it a true story? If so, the low word count might not be a problem.

      I wish you great success with your writing.

  72. Yalda says:

    I like your weblog.I just found it. I think it can help me. Actually my mother tongue is not English,I hope I can write in right way to you. I’m looking for a professional book or journal about Editing in English which explain everything about editing (editing jobs, editing rules and…) would you please help me to find it?

  73. fred says:

    I must be factual that I have realy learnt many things that will help my proposed new carrer as a freelance editor, but would like to be intimated about the basic challenges am likely to face as a freelance editor.