Advice for Editors: Starting Out or Upping Your Game
Editors have a long tradition of mentoring and sharing advice among colleagues, including those starting out (a.k.a. “newbies”). I suggest the following for editors who are starting out or those wanting to improve their skills or business. (For other advice by subject, such as for editing visuals, please see my other blogs.)
- Join a professional organization (or two) in your region and/or specialty, and figure out how to get the most out of your membership. This means finding out all that is offered to you and giving back, which is a sure way to show off your skills, make connections, and learn new skills. In my case, I choose to focus on two organizations: Editors Canada and PLAIN. I volunteer for Editors Canada and a federal government plain language committee.
- Join the editing groups on Facebook that are frequented by professionals (and I might see you there) to lurk, learn, and contribute in a business-like, professional manner. In general, do at least basic research before posting a question. For context, note your location or those of the target readers (because these are international groups, and English and editing vary around the world). Play nice and behave professionally at all times.
- Read up on your subject and any specialty (through your public library and online, and with purchased materials). For example, the Copyeditors’ Knowledge Base (created by Katharine O’Moore-Klopf of KOK Editing) and the Editing Podcast (by Louise Harnby and Denise Cowle) are both great online resources that are free.
- Be prepared to invest in key tools and references that you will use regularly in your business. For example, a laptop computer, key dictionaries and style guides (such as the Chicago Manual of Style, as an online subscription or in print form), and the industry standard computer program (Microsoft Word) are minimum starting points. (Editors who are working and learning on staff, as employees, are the only exception as their employers will provide tools and references.)
- Contribute to the community, thank others, and give credit where it is due. An example of this is noting your sources on a style sheet or when referring to a lesson learned by and from a colleague.
Once you gather all your resources, get ready for ongoing professional development. I mean lifelong learning. Formal training (whether in a certificate or degree program, such as at Simon Fraser University or Centennial College) and formal workshops and seminars along the way (for example, from Editors Canada, ACES, or CIEP) are grand, but learning on the job from experienced colleagues and mentors, from precedents, and using industrial standards and best practices will help an editor become professional, knowledgeable, confident, and flexible. Everyone benefits from such editors—readers, authors, clients, employers, coworkers, colleagues, and the editors themselves. And these editors thrive.