A copy editor is a wordsmith and the gatekeeper of good grammar. Copy editors are hired to review written work before it is published to make sure that the structure and flow of the text is grammatically sound, check that spelling and punctuation are correct, as well as fact-check the content. Often hired full-time by major publications and media companies, many copy editors also enjoy fulfilling freelance careers working remotely from their own home. To be a successful copy editor, one must have a deep knowledge of their language, an ability to communicate effectively through writing, and understand the power of clear and concise sentences.
The first step is to familiarize yourself with the different style guides copy editors work in. The most common guides are the Chicago Manual of Style, The Associated Press Stylebook and the Modern Language Association style. They are available to purchase online or simply borrow them from your local library.
Tip: Style guides are also available for digital download or by a paid subscription.
Copy Editing Courses
Some of the best advice I can give is to enroll in a basic journalism or copy editing course online or at a local college. Courses provide hands-on editing training within a wide range of books, magazines and texts to proofread, edit, and fact-check. Classes are also a great way to network with other copy editors in order to gain professional contacts in the field.
Copy Editing Software
Get acquainted with computer programs often used by professional copy editors. Copy editors are often relied on for newspaper and magazine layouts, so become accustomed with programs like QuarkXpress and Adobe InDesign.
Create An Online Portfolio
Create a portfolio of your copy editing examples. A copy editor’s portfolio consists of clips of their best work, including writing samples, newspaper layouts, magazine layouts and before-and-after documents that detail your edits. Use your portfolio as a way to show potential employers your editing style.
Tip: Create an online portfolio using free website builders and connect your portfolio to your professional social networks.
Make Some Moves!
Request an informational interview from a managing editor or current copy editor at a nearby company. Send them a polite email asking to discuss their position with you at a time convenient for them. Many professionals are happy to share advice and the inside information they share can be very helpful when you begin copy editor interviews.
Now it’s time to gain professional experience. If you are new to copy editing and want to add more depth to your resume, it is helpful to seek copy-editing internships at advertising agencies, newspapers and other publications to gain real-world experience.
If you need a copy editor or copywriter for your next project, feel free to get in touch with me.
- The Slot: What Exactly Is a Copy Editor?
- American Copy Editors Society: Check The Facts: 10 Tips for Copy Editors
- Education Portal: How To Become a Web Copy Writer
- Chips Quin Scholars: A Copy Editor’s Portfolio: More Than Cut and Paste
- Daily Writing Tips: How To Become a Copy Editor
- Cal State University Library Online: Style Manuals & Writing Guides
- Poynter: The Seven Deadly Copy Editing Sins