For people who love the written word and know they have the ability to plan, organize,
and see printed material through its several stages of production, editing may be the ideal
job. A critical link between authors and the reading public, editors control the quality and
nature of printed material, working with authors on rewrites; correcting grammar; and
smoothing out inconsistencies. Editors have significant input in the final product. They analyze
work for quality of content, grammatical correctness, and stylistic consistency. This
requires patience, thoroughness, and an ability to keep in mind both small details and the big
picture simultaneously. Editors must be able to work closely with
writers, diagnose problems, and offer advice on how to avoid them
in the future. This requires a keen, analytical mind and a gentle
An editor meets frequently with others who are also working on a publication, including
artists, typesetters, layout personnel, marketing directors, and production managers. In most
areas of publishing, the success or failure of a product relies on continuous and open communication
among different departments; a snag in any one may throw off the scheduling of
another. As links between departments, editors must be able to handle personality issues
diplomatically; be comfortable with the rigorous scheduling and economics of publishing;
and coordinate and communicate their requirements clearly and effectively.
Editorial positions are available in many types of companies, from established publishing
houses to online service companies. A magazine editor has a different schedule and handles
matters distinct from those of an acquisitions editor or a newspaper editor. Interests,
opportunities, and luck lead editors to an area of specialization. People who wish to progress
in this field nearly always read manuscripts in their spare time or stay late to do extra work.
Competence is rewarded, and lateral and upward mobility within large houses is common.
More than 40 percent of our respondents registered discontent with their current jobs, but
more than 80 percent recorded pleasure with the choice of career and lifestyle. The 15 percent
a year who leave the profession do so because their expectations of immediate impact
and recognition remain unmet by this competitive and underpaid occupation.
No specific academic degree is required, but most editors were English, communications,
or journalism majors in college. A history of editorial positions on college newspapers
or literary magazines is important. Most employers require potential editors to take wordprocessing
and proofreading tests before hire, so it’s a good idea to be familiar with standard
word-processing programs and proofreading symbols. Familiarity with publishing software
and graphics systems is extremely helpful. Some find it beneficial to take a six-week publishing
seminar to enhance their resumes, but no employers require it. Because of the relative
paucity of entry-level editorial positions, many people enter publishing firms,magazines, and
newspapers in advertising, marketing, or promotion departments, and parlay these jobs into
Individuals who leave editing usually do so because of the lack of mobility and low pay.
Editors can apply their skills in business, human resources, and governmental administrative
careers. Others go into noneditorial aspects of publishing, such as subsidiary rights or production.