What does an editor do?

In the world of content creation, an editor applies the polish that makes a piece sing. An editor is largely responsible for checking facts, spelling, grammar, and punctuation. They also ensure that a piece of content keeps with a company or person’s voice so that all content being published is consistent. A good professional editor makes good copy great.

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Depending on the type of editing, an editor may also look at sentence and document structure to ensure that it is well-formatted, adheres to an editorial structure that makes sense (lead, body, conclusion), and makes sure that clarity of thought is clear throughout the piece.

Today we are going to cover:

  1. What is the main role of an editor?
  2. Do editors make good money?
  3. What skills do you need to be an editor?
  4. What makes a good editor?
  5. Do you need a degree to become an editor?
  6. Is it hard to become an editor?

What is the main role of an editor?

An editor is responsible for ensuring that a piece of content is structurally sound, free of typos and errors, adheres to an editorial structure, and follows the brand or person’s tone of voice and guidelines.

Editors are an important part of an editorial process because they make sure that copy is ready to publish and will accomplish the business’s goals such as driving traffic and leads. Editors usually provide feedback to writers that help them improve their writing, such as the flow of the content or ways that they can improve the narrative to better accomplish the goals.

In short, an editor makes a writer look good by helping them improve and tightening up their copy so that it is more presentable to the public once published.

Do editors make good money?

Editorial pay varies by skill and training level, like any profession.

Here is a table of copy editing rates:

CopyeditingMedian Rate Per HourMedian Rate Per WordMedian Pace Of Work
Copyediting, fiction$36-40/hr$.02-.029/wd7-10 pages/hr
Copyediting, nonfiction$41–$45/hr$.03–$.039/wd4–6 pages/hr
Copyediting, business/sales$46–$50/hr$.04–$.049/wd4–6 pages/hr
Copyediting, medical/STEM$46–$50/hr$.04–$.049/wd4–6 pages/hr

Professional editors are, of course, trained professionals who deserve to make a good living for their efforts. According to Salary.com:

The average Editor salary in the United States is $72,521 as of January 27, 2022, but the range typically falls between $62,540 and $82,125

What skills do you need to be an editor?

Professional editors have usually taken an MFA or similar level degree in writing and editing from a higher education institution. In fact, all editors at EditorNinja are MFA-level editors who have been trained to edit documents for a living.

As such, editors have gained a wide range of skills such as:

  1. In-depth knowledge of language and language theory
  2. Deep knowledge of the various styles of writing, though most will edit to MLA style unless instructed otherwise
  3. Looking for grammar and punctuation errors
  4. Suggesting revisions and rearranging sentences and paragraphs to improve comprehension

What makes a good editor?

In order to succeed as an editor, you should:

  1. Be curious about a wide range of topics and ideas in order to enjoy reading and bringing together copy that covers a topic
  2. Detail oriented and trained to recognize and correct grammar and punctuation
  3. Learned in the various styles of writing and able to edit to MLA, Chicago, AP, APA, and the various other types of writing
  4. Have good judgment to understand the target audience and what will resonate with them, and what will drive them to achieve the action the content is meant to encourage
  5. Be a good writer. The best editors are also great writers.

Do you need a degree to become an editor?

While for some professions a degree is not necessary, to be a professional editor you do need a degree in communications, English, literature, or a similar area. This is because editing requires understanding sentence structure deeply and being familiar with the various styles such as MLA, Chicago, AP, and more.

Previous writing and proofreading experience are also usually required to be a great editor. Even then, editors who are also writers recognize that they should have another set of eyes on their copy before it goes live, to make sure that any major issues are caught ahead of time.

Is it hard to become an editor?

While it is not hard to become an editor, there are a number of skillsets that one should possess in order to be successful editing as a career.

First, you should have some level of formal training in language and editing. A decent average education will give you a good base of understanding of punctuation and grammar, but in order to be a truly great editor you must understand sentence structure and how to craft a document that tells a story and pushes the reader to take action.

Second, you must be great at helping a writer understand where they can improve. Writers are the creative spirit that bring together new words, but editors are the magic behind the scenes that really make a piece sing. Editors push writers to improve and make writers look good.

Third, you must be humble. Writers get all the glory, and while great writers will give their editors credit this doesn’t always happen. You must be content being behind the scenes and helping a writer be great.

Fourth, you must be patient. Editing a lot of copy is a lot of work, and giving that copy time to present itself to you in order to be great can be trying. An editor must be patient working with writers and showing them how to improve their writing. Not all writers will be open to listening, so you also must be ok with them not taking your advice even though you are the expert.

Searching for an editor for your content?

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If you’re looking for someone to give your content the editing polish it needs (or that your clients ask for), get in touch today for a free no-obligation chat.

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