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How to Become an Editor
How to Become an Editor

The old maxim is still true: Everyone needs an editor.

Editors help authors and writers develop ideas and stay on message. They define and follow editorial styles, and they review written copy to ensure proper spelling, grammar and punctuation.

Editors make sure information is reliable and accurate when delivered to the intended audience — think search results, instructional manuals, legal contracts, email newsletters, even recipes.

No matter the medium, it’s an editor’s job to make sure communications are clear, correct and concise, said Andi Tosch, a Seattle-area independent technical writer and editor.

“Machines are never going to catch all the errors — ever,” Tosch said. “You have to have somebody who understands the mechanics and syntax of the English language.”

Editors Are in Demand

Washington state, and specifically the Seattle area, is a hot spot for editors, and job demand is expected to grow significantly in the coming decade. That’s, in part, because there are so many different

    Projected Growth

U.S. (2020-30): 5%
Washington state (2018-28): 21%

    Median Annual salary

U.S. (2020): $63,400
Washington state (2020): $67,380

Sources: Bureau of Labor Statistics, O*NET OnLine

roles for editors within Seattle’s tech economy, said Tosch, an instructor for UW Professional & Continuing Education’s Certificate in Editing.

Content editors are on staff at nearly every major tech firm in Seattle, including Amazon, Facebook, Google, Microsoft and Nintendo, Tosch said. Technical editors ensure accuracy for crucial communications in fields like engineering, medicine and life sciences.

“Having someone to understand that background, what the writer is trying to do and to be an extra set of eyes is essential,” Tosch said.

A number of niche industries headquartered in the Seattle area need editors with specific subject-matter expertise, she said. For example, gaming companies employ story editors to ensure dialogue and plotlines make sense in tabletop and video games. Philanthropic organizations look for editors well-versed in grant writing and using data. A background in law or paralegal work may be helpful for editors who work on contracts or other legal documents.

While many corporate editing roles are in-house, editors are also well-positioned for the gig economy, Tosch said. Locally, she sees demand for freelance cookbook editors and people who can use their editing skills to create back-of-the-book indexes. While most of the major fiction publishing houses are based in New York, Tosch said they employ freelance editors all over the world.

Plus, the rise of self-publishing means more authors rely on editors at every stage — developmental editors to read early drafts and spot holes in a plot, editors who can format pages for e-readers and proofreaders and copyeditors to check every single line.

How to Become an Editor

Editors must be experts in grammar, punctuation and the mechanics of editing. Tosch said that’s why the Certificate in Editing covers how to use written proofreading marks for hard-copy edits and how to make digital edits using Adobe software and track-changes in Word.

Many companies require job candidates to prove their skills by passing an editing test, but it’s a misconception that editing is only about following rules, Tosch said.

“What we’re looking at is how words function,” Tosch said. “It’s really identifying different styles based on different audiences and knowing how to stay true to a specific style.”

To that end, editors have to know how to navigate usage and style guides, including the Chicago Manual of Style and AP Style. They also need to know how to look up terms using in-house style guides that are specific to a business or organization.

The award-winning team that leads the UWPCE Certificate in Editing shows students how to create their own style sheets from scratch, Tosch said. Students also practice their skills on real-world editing projects in partnership with local authors and corporate communicators.

“There is no better way to get ahead and get a skill that’s so versatile,” Tosch said.

Style Your Own Editing Career

If you’ve already got your red pen at the ready, check out how UWPCE’s Certificate in Editing can help you polish your professional editing skills.


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