Editor

In 2008, Jeff Deck and Ben Herson traveled across the United States looking for—and attempting to correct—spelling mistakes, grammatical errors, and other abuses of the English language printed on public signage. While some people called them grammar Nazis, others cheered their efforts.

If, like Deck and Herson, you also are passionate about properly written English, you may want to consider a career as an editor. Editors are professionals who ensure that a piece of writing has no spelling, grammatical, or syntax errors. They also review texts for consistent style and make sure the information addresses the proper audience. The editor’s job is really a hidden one, but it is critically important: to polish the author’s work so that his message is clear and not obscured by errors that distract the reader.

There are many different kinds of editors. Some editors work for publications, such as magazines and newspapers, and tend to review individual articles by many authors. Other editors review lengthier publications such as books and journals. Anything that has text on it is likely to have an editor behind it; websites, advertisements, movie scripts, product manuals, and even film credits are just a few things that editors ensure are well-written and free of errors.

Some editors work on specific publications, while others edit everything a company produces, such as brochures, flyers, and advertisements. While some editors review texts such like newspaper and magazines that are intended to be read by the general public, other editors polish very specialized publications such as medical journals, software manuals, and financial reports. Individuals who edit highly complex, industry-specific documents are known as technical editors.

Though most companies looking for an editor will require you have a college degree in English, journalism, or technical writing, there are other ways to break into the editing field. Take a few English courses (with a heavy emphasis on writing, of course) and add to them some real-world experience as a writer and editor.

One of the best ways to gain experience is to work for small, local newspapers and magazines. These publications are usually produced by just one or two individuals who are more than happy to hire unpaid interns. After you have a few English courses under your belt, call or e-mail the editor of the paper and volunteer your time as an “extra pair of eyes” on their content. This invaluable training will greatly increase your chances of being hired later for a paid position.

Most editors begin their careers as writers and then move into editing positions over time, which means that the salaries for editors tend to be higher overall than for most entry-level writing jobs. Most writers begin to edit once they have reached the assistant editor level.

Your salary as an editor will depend on many things, including your education and experience. Two of the biggest factors determining your salary have more to do with the publication than with the editor, however. The first is whether the publication is general or specialized. The second is whether the publication is considered prestigious or well-known. Technical editors tend to earn more than editors of general interest publications— unless the publication is a famous magazine such as Ladies’ Home Journal or The New Yorker. Editors of these publications tend to make the highest salaries in the industry, and for good reason: millions of people are going to read the fruits of their labors.

You do not have to be a “grammar Nazi” to be a good editor, but if you are detail-oriented and enjoy the challenge of polishing others’ work—and if you do not mind them getting the credit for it!—then chances are you would make an excellent editor. As Deck and Herson discovered, the world can never have too many of those.

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