How to Become an Editor

Table of Contents

Introduction: The Journey to Becoming an Editor

Pursuing a career as an editor can be an incredibly rewarding path for those with a passion for a publishing career. This article teaches you a thing or two about how to become an editor, but before embarking on this journey, it is important to understand exactly what the role and responsibilities of an editor entail.

At its core, an editor has to review, refine, and prepare content for publication. This involves carefully analyzing written material to improve its clarity, accuracy, structure, and readability.

Editors may suggest revisions, rewrite passages, verify facts, ensure consistency, and polish language. Their trained eye catches grammar, spelling, and punctuation errors that writers overlook.

How to become an editor

Editors work closely with authors, journalists, and other content creators to shape their writing into the best possible form. They ensure publications adhere to standards and styles appropriate for the intended audience. Editors also oversee the entire publication process, from development and review to layout and printing.

To excel as an editor, one must possess excellent writing skills themselves. A strong grasp of the nuances of language is essential. You must understand what makes writing compelling and be able to tactfully guide others in sharpening their work. Solid writing capabilities provide the fundamental tools for elevating content.

This introduction outlines the editor’s critical role in the writing process. The following sections will delve deeper into professional editors’ day-to-day work, required skills, training, and career journey. With a dedication to honing your writing craft, the path to becoming an editor may be within your reach.

What Does an Editor Do?

Editors play a critical role in shaping written material and improving its quality before publication. There are several types of editing that editors may specialize in:


Copyeditors review manuscripts for grammar, spelling, punctuation, consistency, and accuracy. In copyediting, they verify facts, dates, statistics, and other details to ensure the content is error-free. Copyeditors also check for proper formatting and style adherence.

Developmental Editing

Developmental editors provide a high-level assessment of a manuscript’s structure, flow, and organization. They may suggest revisions to strengthen the narrative, reduce redundancy, and improve the logical flow of ideas. This big-picture editing shapes the overall direction of the work.


Proofreaders do a final check for any typographical errors, formatting issues, or other minor mistakes in a manuscript before it goes to print or publication. They give the content one last polish.

Editors work for a wide range of publications and organizations:

  • Book publishers
  • Newspapers and magazines
  • Academic journals
  • Websites and blogs
  • Corporations
  • Government agencies
  • Nonprofit organizations

They may be employed as in-house editors or work as freelancers. Sometimes, as an editor, you cover more than one type of publication. For instance, I have worked on editing academic journals, books and websites simultaneously.

Editors specialize in diverse topics and genres. With strong writing skills and attention to detail, editors help create polished, publication-ready content.

Why Strong Writing Skills Matter in Editing

Effective editing requires more than just a keen eye for mistakes. At its core, editing is about enhancing the clarity and flow of a written piece. For this reason, strong writing capabilities are invaluable for editors. Here are some of the key ways excellent writing skills contribute to successful editing:

Deep Understanding of Grammar and Mechanics

Editors need to comprehensively grasp grammar principles and mechanics like punctuation, capitalization, and spelling. This allows them to identify errors and inconsistencies and smooth them out.

Knowledge of grammar helps ensure writing is clear, precise, and correctly structured. Editors can catch grammatical issues like subject-verb disagreement, run-on sentences, and improper syntax. A deep familiarity with mechanics allows editors to spot typos, missing commas, incorrect capitalization, and other technical mistakes.

Command of Style Guidelines

Every publication has a style guide that outlines conventions for formatting, usage, and more. Editors must be intimately familiar with the relevant style manual, whether AP Stylebook, Chicago Manual of Style, MLA, or another standard.

These manuals guide you in editing aspects like hyphenation, serial commas, abbreviations, and capitalization. Adhering to the style guide produces consistency across a document or publication. Editors use style knowledge to flag deviations and align the text with the designated guide.

Understanding of Tone and Voice

An editor’s job involves far more than just fixing surface-level errors. Editors must also evaluate and refine tone, voice, and clarity issues. This requires strong writing skills to assess how well the tone matches the content and intended audience.

Editors identify passages that sound awkward, unclear, or inconsistent. They may suggest rephrasing to capture the right voice and polish the tone. Strong writing abilities allow editors to ensure the tone resonates with readers.

In summary, being an effective editor requires excellent writing skills. You must thoroughly understand the building blocks of writing to help shape and elevate someone else’s work. Hiring managers at publications look for strong writing capabilities when assessing editor candidates. To pursue editing, continually build your grammar, style, and writing proficiency.

How to Enhance Your Writing Skills

Improving your writing skills takes dedication and consistent practice. Here are some practical tips to help enhance your abilities:

Read Widely

Make reading a daily habit. Expose yourself to different genres, authors, and styles of writing. Pay attention to sentence structure, word choice, tone, and flow. The more you read high-quality writing, the more your brain will absorb effective techniques.

Practice Regularly

Writing is a skill that requires ongoing exercise. Set aside time each day to write, even if it’s just journaling or freewriting. The more you flex your writing muscles, the stronger they will become. Consider starting a blog or contributing to an online publication for regular writing practice.

Seek Feedback

Ask others to critique your writing to identify areas for improvement. Join a writing group or online community to share work and provide constructive feedback. Mentors and editors can also pinpoint weaknesses and guide in strengthening your skills.

Understand Different Writing Styles

Each genre and publication has its distinct style. Read samples to understand the conventions of different types of writing. Study the tone, voice, sentence structure, and formatting. With practice, you can adapt your writing to fit diverse contexts.

Learn From the Experts

Take writing courses and workshops to absorb advice from experienced writers and teachers. Many are available online for flexibility. Immerse yourself in learning from the masters of the craft.

You can significantly improve your writing abilities over time with dedicated practice and an openness to continual growth. Mastering this skill will make you a much stronger editor.

Education and Training for Aspiring Editors

Aspiring editors should pursue education and training opportunities to build a strong foundation of skills and knowledge. Though no strict educational requirements exist, most editors hold bachelor’s degrees in English, journalism, communications, or literature.

Coursework in writing, editing, and publishing is highly recommended. Many employers prefer candidates with master’s degrees in subjects like publishing, technical communication, or creative writing.

Beyond formal education, specialized training is invaluable. Aspiring editors can enroll in certificate programs focused on copyediting, proofreading, developmental editing, and more.

These intensive programs equip students with practical editing skills and knowledge of industry standards. Editing workshops and seminars also offer excellent training opportunities. Attending writers’ conferences and events hosted by professional editing organizations allows networking with publishing professionals while learning new skills.

The Editorial Freelancers Association, The Society for Editing, and the Council of Science Editors organize regular training events across North America.

Aspiring editors should consider internships at publishing houses, newspapers, magazines, or other media outlets. These hands-on experiences under the guidance of experienced editors are invaluable for building real-world skills and making industry connections. Some internships lead directly to entry-level editing roles.

With the right mix of education, training, and experience, aspiring editors can gain the expertise needed to evaluate, refine, and transform written material. A solid grasp of language plus specialized knowledge equips editors to elevate the work of others.

Building Editing Experience

Hands-on editing experience is crucial for aspiring editors looking to hone their skills and build an impressive portfolio. Here are some tips on getting started:

Take on Freelance Editing Projects

One of the best ways to gain real-world editing experience is by taking on freelance projects. Seek opportunities to edit manuscripts, blog posts, website content, student papers, or corporate materials.

Start by letting friends and family know you’re available for hire or join online freelancing platforms to find clients. Taking on various projects will help build your skills in different types of editing and writing genres.

Complete an Editorial Internship

Editorial internships at publishers, magazines, newspapers, or other media companies are a great way to learn the ropes of professional editing.

Interning provides hands-on training under the guidance of experienced editors who can teach you industry standards and techniques. Contact publications directly about possible internship opportunities or check industry job boards. Paid internships are ideal, but unpaid ones can also provide valuable experience.

Start By Editing Your Writing

Before editing others’ work, practice it in your writing. Keep a daily journal or blog where you write on various topics, and then go back to edit your drafts for clarity, concision, grammar, spelling, and style. My favorite platform is Google Docs, where I can easily access documents from various devices.

You’ll develop an eye for catching mistakes and learning how to improve your writing. Consider taking a writing course as well to improve your skills before editing others.

Join a Writers’ Group

Local writers’ groups and online writing communities provide opportunities to read and critique each other’s work. Offer to edit pieces other members write to get feedback on your editing skills. You can also request that other members edit your writing in return. This type of exchange helps editors improve by working collaboratively.

Immersing yourself in hands-on editing is the best way to transform your raw skills into polished expertise. As you gain more experience, collect impressive editing samples to build a portfolio that shows prospective employers your capabilities.

Tips for Landing Your First Editing Job

Landing that first editing job is an exciting milestone but requires preparation and persistence. Here are some tips to help aspiring editors create an appealing CV and ace the interview process:

Highlight Your Writing Skills on Your CV

Your CV is your first chance to showcase your capabilities as an editor. Be sure to emphasize any writing experience, including freelance gigs, internships, published articles, etc. List specific skills like copyediting, proofreading, fact-checking, and familiarity with style guides. Mention any editing courses, certificates, or degrees as well. Providing writing samples is also recommended.

Tailor Your CV for Editing Roles

While applying, tweak your CV for each editing role you seek. Cater to the specific qualifications listed in the job ad. For example, if the role requires copyediting experience, move that skill higher on your CV. This shows you have the precise background they want.

Prepare Insightful Interview Answers

Common editor interview questions assess your grasp of grammar, style guides, and the editing process. Brush up on these areas beforehand. Have thoughtful examples ready that demonstrate your abilities, the challenges you’ve overcome, and your passion for editing. It’s also key to research the company’s style guide and be prepared to discuss how you’d approach an editing test or sample if given one.

Show Enthusiasm and Curiosity

In the interview, convey genuine excitement about editing and eagerness to learn. Ask insightful questions about their editorial process and company culture. Discuss ideas you have that could enhance their content. This shows initiative beyond just performing the required tasks.

With a polished CV and interview skills focused on your writing capabilities, you can land that coveted first editing job. Show them you have what it takes to strengthen content and propel their publication forward.

Conclusion: Your Path to Becoming an Editor

We’ve covered a lot of ground in this blog post on how to become an editor. From understanding the varied responsibilities of an editor to the importance of honing your writing skills, you now have a solid foundation of knowledge.

The core takeaways are:

  • Editors perform various duties, from copy editing to proofreading, working in diverse industries like book publishing, journalism, and digital media.
  • Excellent writing abilities are crucial for being an effective editor. You must have a strong grasp of grammar, style conventions, and adapting tone.
  • Relevant education like English degrees, editing certificates, and writing workshops can provide useful skills and credentials.
  • Gaining hands-on experience via internships, freelance gigs, and working on your writing is key to developing editing expertise.

With this understanding of the editor’s role, required competencies, and how to build your skills, you’re well on your way to beginning your editing career.

Start Your Editing Journey

If you’re passionate about working with the written word, have an eye for detail, and want to help writers refine their craft, a career as an editor may be perfect. Use the tips in this blog post to enhance your writing skills, build up your credentials, and gain those all-important first editing experiences.

Dedication and persistence can turn your love of the written word into a rewarding career. The journey may take time, but the destination is well worth it. So sharpen that red pen, and prepare to shape great writing as a professional editor!