Years editing: 6
Job title: Editor
Job description: Edits scholarly articles, books, and non-academic documents
Location: Edmonton, Alberta, Canada
How did you get your current job?
I graduated with a specialization in economics and management, and I didn’t want to follow the traditional route and become an economist. I saw an ad that said I could use my subject-area knowledge and expertise to help researchers.
What copyediting training have you had?
I have training from my first job as an editor. I’m now undergoing further training, thanks to the Chartered Institute of Editing and Proofreading (CIEP) courses.
What positions have you held?
At Crimson (Enago), I started as an editor, and three years later, I was managing editor. Crimson is a scholarly editing company, providing editing and publication services to researchers and academics. Since then, I’ve mostly worked as a freelance editor. Very recently, I have started working as a proofreader in an ad agency based in Montreal, called Tank.
DOING THE JOB
Are there any complementary skills that are important in your job?
Microsoft Word is our bread and butter. But general project management and time management skills are crucial. Editors need to judge where to invest time.
Do you use any editing tools to get the job done (e.g., PerfectIt, Adobe stamps)?
PerfectIt is my favorite. I run it on all documents, and I have customized styles in it. These customizations help me rectify things like single and double quotation marks, for instance. PerfectIt also helps me edit for generic styles (e.g., US English, UK English) and for documents that have specific (read: quirky) style preferences.
COMMUNICATING WITH OTHERS
How do you and your colleagues talk about editing with each other?
We often talk about how language and words produce magic and how usage differs depending on region, context, etc. We also talk about personal processes, tricks, and experiments that we try. For instance, rearranging windows on the screen helps me edit faster.
A most effective trick that has worked for me for years is using the web layout view in MS Word. Using this view with 200 percent zoom on a full screen does two things for me: It zooms the text enough for me to read significantly faster, and it removes details like page numbers and footnotes from my view. This essentially helps me focus purely on editing the text, and I edit footnotes before or after the main editing. Obviously, I modify the zoom levels for documents of different sizes. I also adjust the width of my comment margins in MS Word.
Do you participate in a community (or communities) that supports editors?
Yes, CIEP has been an immensely helpful community for me. CIEP groups are extraordinarily welcoming and inclusive. It’s a community of editors from different backgrounds, working in different profiles, genres, and industries. There’s a sense of kinship and camaraderie that I haven’t found anywhere else.
Moreover, CIEP provides structured training opportunities. Its courses are aligned with its membership grade, and getting through more courses allows one not only to learn more skills, but to increase their network.
Do you have any thoughts on the need for editors to network and talk about what they do?
This need persists in every profession, and just like in every profession, being engaged with fellow editors helps one not only learn and share best practices but also improve as a person.
How might we get buy-in during the editing process from authors who may not be receptive to changes?
Prior to beginning the project, a thorough understanding of the scope and responsibilities is a must. This step lays down the ground rules as to how much the editor can offer and to what extent the author has a say. This process ensures that authors have no choice but to be receptive about issues that they know the editors are right about.
Apart from that, editing is a conversation. Editors can advise and suggest, but they have to be respectful about the author’s originality. Equally, authors must also respect the skill, experience, and knowledge the editor brings.
This understanding needs to be established between both parties to get the most from authors who are difficult, so they know that the editor isn’t winging it but has a sound understanding of the process.
Have you faced any hurdles in getting into/advancing in the copyediting profession because you are a person of color? Or have you observed such barriers for others?
Not for myself, but I have noticed that authors and employers tend to have this twisted notion that native proficiency in the English language can be present only if a person is of a certain race and from a certain country. All others, regardless of their skills in English, are non-native speakers and hence do not have good enough skills in English.
What lessons would you have liked to learn at the beginning of your career?
That editing can be done without always having the pressure of editing x number of words per day. Some authors, or even employers, tend to enforce this system, and while the system may work for specific projects or clients, it isn’t the only way to edit more or faster. Often, new editors who are thrust into such a system tend to believe that this improves their skill and that a more flexible approach is not valid.
Editing is much more than simply covering a certain number of words every day. Editing is having a candid conversation with your authors, understanding them and their needs, and providing the best product that can benefit them.
Any suggestions on what offices/employers could do to increase diversity in your field of editing?
Be open to people’s skills and experiences, rather than being rigid about a certain list of qualifications.
Tell us about a project that you’re proud of.
A book on energy economics — my first massive project. I do not remember the name, but it was, at the time, a 450,000-word project that we were supposed to deliver in four weeks. I was a new editor in the company, and because the regular economics editor was unavailable, they trusted me with the task. Within that short period, I had to not only edit the book, but also get to know the project managers and others involved, so that we all could work efficiently together.
We delivered the project in three weeks. It involved long hours, some evenings and late nights, quality checks and revisions, and formatting. But in the end, we all pulled it off. The client was elated, and the book eventually got published. It was a proud moment for all of us.
Any hobbies you’d like to share with us?
I play tennis, and I like cycling.
What resources would you share with fellow editors?
I’d advise editors to get hold of the usual style guides, in addition to a few of the brilliant titles on copyediting. (The Subversive Copy Editor, by Carol Saller, definitely comes to mind.) They’re like our bibles.
I would also advise editors to read about different Englishes of the world. It’s amazing that there are so many variants of English, and reading about them gives us great insight into those different cultures and subcultures.
Is there anything else you’d like readers to know about you or about diversity in the profession?
Editors are language professionals, meaning they are skilled in a language or multiple languages. Knowledge of languages goes beyond mere grammar rules and speaking proficiency.
I’d like clients and employers to be more open about the qualities they look for in editors. Sure, for some projects, grammar skills and general proficiency may be all that’s needed. But life experiences, complementary skills, failures, trials — these maketh an editor. Editors are artists. Some have a way of interpreting circumstances and persevering. These are the editors who make a difference.