KOK Edit: Your favorite copyeditor since 1984(SM)
KOK Edit: your favorite copyeditor since 1984(SM) KOK Edit: your favorite copyeditor since 1984(SM) Katharine O'Moore Klopf

Sunday, January 17, 2010

How to Transition to Copyediting From Another Career

I'm always being asked how to get into copyediting by people who are in related fields such as teaching. Please note that having been an English teacher does not necessarily prepare you well to be an editor. There is no One True Way, but this is a path that I often recommend:

  • I used to advise would-be editors to subscribe to Copyediting newsletter. But the newsletter's materials were sold at the start of 2019 to ACES: the Society for Editing. You can find some of its articles in the News section of the ACES website. [Note: This item was updated October 8, 2019.]
  • Meanwhile, follow the links found in the Copyeditors' Knowledge Base on my web site. Take action on those that will help you fill gaps in your knowledge.
  • After all of that, take any additional courses that you need. There are plenty available, many that can be completed online.
  • Then begin contacting publishers and other organizations, offering your editing services. You will most often be required to take a copyediting test, time for which you will not be paid.
  • If you have gotten this far in the process, join a profession-related organization for networking and continuing-education purposes and to have colleagues who can answer your questions and teach you client-relations skills. I highly recommend the Editorial Freelancers Association, of which I have been a member since 1995. There are many more such organizations that you may find helpful. [Note: This item was updated April 10, 2013.]
  • Take courses periodically for the rest of your life. Above all, being a copyeditor requires being willing to constantly learn: Both language and grammar practices change over time, as does the technology used to edit. You may also want or need to learn related skills, such as indexing or page layout, to stay in demand in the industry.



Bobbie said...

Thank you so much for this! I've been a copy editor for 17 years, freelance for most of that time. Every few months, I get an email or a call from "a friend of a friend of a friend," telling me he or she wants to "make a little extra money on the side" and thought picking up editing from home would be an easy route. I try to remain calm and explain my own background and education. Then I tell them to take some classes and do a little more research.

But now I can point them to this post (which I'll be saving to my hard drive!).

I know I shouldn't get frustrated with such emails and phone calls. Thanks for giving me the chance to be even *more* patient.

Katharine O'Moore-Klopf said...

You're welcome, Bobbie. I think that because there isn't any one well-publicized education and career track for becoming a copyeditor, outsiders don't know much about what we do and thus think that they are qualified to edit just because they love to read.

It's through writing e-mail-list posts and blog posts like this one and through setting up the Copyeditors' Knowledge Base that I hope to help educate the public about what copyeditors do.

Anonymous said...

Yes! I hear people all the time, "Oh, yeah, I thought I'd do some proofrreadingandcopyediting" (they always run it together like that). It was bad enough when I had to explain to people that yes, you can be a qualified librarian, and yes, you do a degree and a postgrad LIKE A TEACHER, YES THAT'S RIGHT - now I have to explain that I don't just spell stuff (or go around with a sharpie writing on people's signage).

I suppose I'm lucky that people respect the fact that yes, I'm working at home, and that means I'm working.

Anyway - a good post, thank you!

Louise Harnby said...

I’ve written a couple of blog posts that may also be useful – the first is called Starting Out in Proofreading http://ow.ly/7Vjy5, though it’s equally relevant to editors. The other is about the importance of editorial training. It’s called Does Training Matter? – What Publishers Say about Proofreading and Editing Courses (available on same site). Often, the best place to get guidance about editorial work is your national editing society. In the UK, this is the Society for Editors and Proofreaders (SfEP). In the US, the ACES and EFA age great places to start.

Katharine O'Moore-Klopf said...

Louise, when I spotted "Does Training Matter?" a few days ago, I liked it so much that I added it to the "Education and Certification" page of my Copyeditors' Knowledge Base. :-) And yes, having been a member of the Editorial Freelancers Association (EFA) since 1995, I agree that professional associations are quite helpful. Thanks for sharing the link to "Starting Out in Proofreading."

Arlene Prunkl said...

NGeverThis is a great post, Katharine. I too am frequently asked about how to get started in the business, and I have a form letter I usually send out. But your post here is much more comprehensive than my letter. I'm saving it and I'll be referring wannabe editors to it. Thanks!

Unknown said...

Thank you so much for your post Katharine. I am looking very seriously at becoming a copyeditor. I already own and have read through both The Copyeditor's Handbook and Business Planning for Editorial Freelancers. So it is good to know that I am on the right track. I have an English degree but am of course looking at taking some copyediting courses. There seem to be a lot of options - which courses do publishers most respect? I see that you recommend the training modules from Copyediting and courses from the Graduate School. What do you think about UC San Diego Extension's certificate program? Thank you for your post and your help.

Katharine O'Moore-Klopf said...

Suzie, I'm sorry for the delay in posting your comment. It had ended up in my junk folder, and I didn't see it until now.

The Graduate School courses and the UC San Diego Extension certificate program are highly respected. Go for it!

Radha Ramana said...

Ms.Katherine, Taking forward from Ms.Suzie's post, I have The Copyeditor's Handbook. I am an avid reader working on my first book. I have done some editing for my own organisation's publications for a while. Now, I plan to get into copyediting for a livelihood in about 3 - 4 years with a change of career. Based in India and so what would be the best course for me to take up (online) and any other suggested readings you may like to prescribe. And yes - I dont want to make a bit on the side but want to get into it as a fulltime career after plodding for about 3 - 4 years on it.

Unknown said...

What a fabulous site. I recently completed an editing class through Leisure Learning and I'm ready to take my studies to the next level. Do you by chance offer classes through ACES?

Katharine O'Moore-Klopf said...

Radha, do some online research about editing courses available in India and choose those that can teach you skills that you want to learn. Never, ever stop learning—being an editor means having a willingness to constantly learn new things.

Katharine O'Moore-Klopf said...

No, Becca, at this point I don't offer classes through ACES. I do sometimes lead audio conferences through Copyediting newsletter, and I am one of the two authors of the newsletter's column "The Business of Copyediting." The audio conferences, the column, the newsletter itself, and the newsletter's blog are all good sources of education.

http://www.sacredhypnogoddess.com/40-days-of-inner-power/ said...


Hannah Anderson said...

Copy editors are in high demand, so if you go far enough down the food chain you might find a paper that isn't exactly inundated with copy-editor applicants, and you might persuade the people there to give you a test or a tryout based on your eagerness.

Vivek said...

Great post Katharine. I posted this link in my Indian Copyeditors Forum Facebook group in response to a question from a group member on how to shift from a career in content writing to a career in editing. Radha Ramana, if you are reading this, I would request you to join the group Indian Copyeditors Forum. You can also check out our website indiancopyeditors.wix.com/copyeditor.

jgress said...

I'm so glad I found this page. I'm a writing tutor who wants to acquire copyediting skills and perhaps branch out into that profession. Thank you so much for this step-by-step guide to the transition! I'm almost done with the Handbook and am about to get Business Planning.

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