Editing courses are available through ACS Distance Education. Click here
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Editing is a specialised job. Some writers edit their own work if they have the skill and training. Other writers depend upon contract or in house editors engaged by publishers.
Editing is more than just correcting spelling mistakes and grammatical errors - it should always attend to these issues - but also to achieving a consistency in standard, presentation and style across a publication. Editors need to be meticulous, but not pedantic. They need to understand the needs of the publisher and writer they are working with, and appreciate the economic realities which affect what should be done to a piece of work.
Publications that generate greater income can afford the luxury of attempting near perfection, but those which are on a shoestring budget may in reality operate on the basis of tolerating a certain level of error. (eg. One magazine publisher told me that he does not start worrying until he receives the fifth complaint about errors in a single publication).
Seeking Work as an Editor
Editors are not only employed in newspapers and magazines. Many book publishers employ full or part time editors. Some outsource work to editors who work from home.
Contract Editors are people who establish themselves as a small business, editing anything and everything that comes their way. This might include advertising literature for local companies, reports for businesses or private individuals, submission documents (eg. submitting for government approval on something), or books being written by a freelance author.
Contract editors may develop a network of opportunities by joining professional writing, publishing, editing or business associations; or they might advertise (eg. Editors often advertise in Writers magazines or journals).
ACS Distance Education offers a range of Editing & Publishing Courses. The following is detailed information about one of the courses available for study by correspondence.
EDITING I - BWR106
Duration: 100 Hours (you study at your own pace).
- To gain an understanding of the role and scope of editing.
- Understand the importance of clear, effective writing throughout all stages of the publishing process.
- Describe the procedure of manuscript assessment.
- Describe the procedures used by copy editors.
- Explain procedures used to prepare copy for printing.
- Describe the checks and procedures used in the final stages of preparing and printing publications.
There are eight lessons:
- Introduction to Editing – the role and scope of editing; tools for editing; editing skills; the production process: an overview; who does what in publishing
- The Mechanics of Clear Writing – spelling, punctuation, grammar, language;style; tense
- Assessing Manuscripts – readability; word length; structure; consistencies and inaccuracies; the reader’s report; substantive editing; the author’s responsibilities; the author/editor relationship
- Copy Editing I – what the copy editor does; the procedure; house style; style sheets
- Copy Editing II – marking up; parts of a publication; editing non-text material;
- Preparing Copy for Printing – type design and page layout; proof stages
- Proof Reading
- The Final Stages – indexes; blurbs; checking final proofs
THE ROLE OF AN EDITOR
Like all industries, editing has evolved over the years. Individuals and companies who have not adapted to these changes have not fared so well. Whilst the emergence of sophisticated editing software and changes in publishing formats may have contributed to the loss of some jobs, they have also opened up new avenues for the industry.
There are different things to look out for – technical accuracy, styling, spelling, grammar, visual quality, to name but some. Different employers may weigh up their priorities differently.
It is important as an editor that you recognise the balance required by the employers you are working for, or you wish to work for.
Why Are You Editing?
When anyone employs an editor, they will have certain ideas about what an editor will do. It is, therefore, important that you, as an editor, find out what those expectations and ideas are BEFORE you begin any work on a book or document.
An editor needs to identify, understand and respect the expectations of their employer - but it does not just stop there. An editor may have one employer – say, a publisher – but there are also other people looking at their work:
- The author(s)
- The publisher
- The audience
The author is the person who has written the book, but more than that they have written it in a particular style. They have chosen certain words and presented the document in a specific way. An editor needs to be sure that they are respecting the wishes of the author and presenting their edited version in a way that meets with the author’s requirements. The author does not want to see their work totally rewritten, but they may appreciate the fact that an editor has picked up grammatical errors, miscommunications, incorrect spellings, poor syntax, repetitions, and so on.
The publisher is the person who will publish the work, whether in paper or online. The publisher will have set guidelines and requirements for the work that appears in their publications. The editor will need to be aware of those guidelines to ensure they are providing a good service for the publisher. Many publishers will have style guides that the editor should familiarise themselves with. These may be bespoke in-house guides, or widely available guides.
Finally, the editor is always working for the audience. The editor is not the author, but they do need to be aware of who the audience for a piece of work is in order to have appreciation of how the author is intending to address them. There are often many opportunities for editors to “assume” what their readers want. Making assumptions, however, has been a downfall for many editors. An editor must always ask themselves "Who are the audience?", and be sensitive to what they would wish for.
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