Jevon Bolden

Years editing: 18
Job title: Founder, CEO, principal, Embolden Media Group 
Job description: Leads a publishing consulting firm and literary agency
Location: Central Florida

How did you get your current job?
Short answer: After 14 years working as an editor for traditional publishers, I started a company and hired myself.

Longer answer: After 12 years working for Charisma House as an editor and building really great author relationships, I felt my time there had come to an end. What I wanted to contribute to Christian publishing was different from what Charisma House was publishing at the time. After having such great training there, it was time for me to expand beyond the categories they published.

I searched high and low for another senior editor position — or even editorial director, managing editor, executive editor, or associate publisher position — but there were very few opportunities I could leverage, having signed an NDA at Charisma House. This meant I essentially could not work for another Christian publisher and created a challenge for me over and above the industry-level limitations I faced as an editor of color seeking a new position.

I eventually found a nice position with the largest children’s book publisher in the world: Scholastic. And it was local! I didn’t have to move to New York, so I applied. After working with the recruiter, I negotiated for a higher title and higher salary range due to my previous experience. I was hired as a senior editor for Tangerine Press, a nonfiction children’s book-plus imprint that produced book products for kids ages 7-12 and sold directly into Scholastic Book Fairs. It was an incredible opportunity.

Because I had built such strong relationships with the authors at the previous publisher, word traveled that I was no longer working with them. The authors I had worked with began requesting my help with their books. One of those authors, who had a significant platform, hosted a writer’s conference, for which they asked me to lead the entire publishing track. I brought in my diverse group of publishing friends — editors, marketing specialists, and more — and we served hundreds of writers of color, about 98% of whom had never attended a writer’s conference before.

We taught sessions on writing, editing, and marketing. We also sat with them for one-on-one publishing appointments. It was a huge success, so much so that I received an influx of interest from authors who wanted to work with me writing, editing, and publishing their books. Over the next few months after the writers’ conference, I was inundated with so much work, I was earning more at the side hustle than I was with my full-time work. 

This realization led me to a decision to resign from Scholastic in 2017 and launch Embolden Media Group full time.

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? 
It is no secret that the editorial part of publishing is 85% white, according to Lee & Low’s 2019 Diversity Baseline Survey. I am part of the 1% of Black, Afro American, Afro Caribbean editors in all of publishing.

The first issue in becoming a copyeditor is that there is very little information about publishing at the collegiate level. I didn’t even know anything about book publishing while I was pursuing an English degree. I just knew I loved literature and books. I stumbled upon the potential to get a job in publishing because I was aggressively job hunting based on positions that matched my degree. No recruiters from publishing houses came to my university.

Publishing is also very regional. The chances of entering book publishing decrease if you do not live in the northeast near New York — or in Nashville, Grand Rapids, or Colorado Springs for Christian publishing. I lived in Huntsville, Alabama, at the time. I got a job at a small Christian publisher in Florida and moved for the entry-level position at my own expense. It was incredibly challenging financially. What I risked and sacrificed as a young professional with a young family can be a pretty big turnoff for new professionals of color.

But let me say this, and it’s very important: I absolutely love publishing. I loved everything in those days about being a new editor. The sacrifice still feels worth it to me.

I moved up quickly within the company I started with (at the time, I was the only person of color in the department and the only one with a college degree in English), but then there was nowhere else for me to go. Their career path was not clear, and once you got to a certain position, there wasn’t much more room for advancement. I wrote more about this here.

What lessons would you have liked to learn at the beginning of your career?
Outside of being better educated on the career path for an editor and being allowed to explore the publishing industry as a whole, my direct and necessary on-the-job training was superb — better than most. I am grateful for that.

Any suggestions on what offices/employers could do to increase diversity in your field of editing?
Yes, I wrote about five best DEI practices for organizations here.

Tell us about a project that you’re proud of.
Too many to name. You can see a list of books I’ve worked on here.

What resources would you share with fellow editors?
See the image below, from my editorial bookshelf to yours. Also Conscious Style Guide is a great online style guide for issues regarding race, ethnicity, gender, sexuality, and ability. 


Are you an editor of color who would like to be featured on Outside-the-Book.com? Email Info@StyleSheetsEditorial.com

Pro Tips from Your Favorite Editors

CaTyra Polland and Cynthia Williams

Editing is art and science. Two editors can look at the same copy and use very different approaches to get it in the best condition. Though a colleague often can’t tell us the “right” way to do an editing task, sometimes, we can benefit from seeing how other professionals work. Here, Editor Knows Best and Outside the Book have curated some tricks of the trade from your favorite word nerds.



Adrienne Michelle Horn
Editor, I A.M. Editing, Ink LLC
Years editing: 7
Specialty: Line editing, copyediting
Type of material: Articles, blogs, dissertations, manuscripts

Do: Always inform your client of what type of editing is needed and why.

Don’t: Never return a draft to a client without reviewing your changes at least once. We are all human and make mistakes.



Amber Riaz
Editor, A4 Editing
Years editing: 14
Specialty: Copyediting
Type of material: Academic manuscripts, web content

Do: Find an editorial niche that makes you happy, so you wake up every day actually looking forward to your workday.

Don’t: Treat grammar rules as immutable/unchanging. Language evolves constantly, so editors must keep themselves informed of new ways of using words and phrases. A prescriptivist attitude to editing suppresses creativity


Andrae D. Smith
Editor
Specialty: Primarily nonfiction
Type of material: Self-help and personal development books

Do: Know your reading and editing pace and plan accordingly. Check your availability and never be afraid to ask for a sample to see if you can reasonably take on a project.

Don’t: Rush or procrastinate. Take on more than you can handle. Overbook or book outside of your skill level, even if you need the money. The worst thing you can do for your reputation, your business, and your clients is take on so much that you’re rushing to get done and you do a bad job. Each project deserves your full attention.



Chris Obudho
Editor and proofreader, CJO Writing + Editing LLC
Years editing: 25
Specialty: Substantive editing
Type of material: Everything from digital ads to scientific journal articles

Do: Read everything you can. Of course, read books about the business, process, and art of editing and proofreading, to keep your skills sharp — but don’t neglect other forms of prose: cookbooks, catalogs, random websites, dictionaries, “junk” mail/sales letters, old textbooks, etc. These seemingly weird sources of information can give you great insight into how words are used and how sentences are formed. Reading broadly also helps hone your sense of curiosity, which can build knowledge. This knowledge base can then be used to help you better understand what you’re editing. The broader your knowledge about various topics (you don’t have to be an expert!), the more you’ll be able to help (1) your author express an idea and (2) your reader understand that idea.

Don’t: Never forget why you’re editing or proofreading a particular document. It’s not about your ability to redline a document so it looks like a crime scene. It’s not about showing how smart you are. It’s not about making the author’s work “better” by your standards. The editing or proofreading is about the reader.



Crystal Shelley
Editor and proofreader, Rabbit with a Red Pen
Years editing: 4
Specialty: Line editing, copyediting, proofreading, sensitivity reading
Type of material: Novels

Do: Don’t settle for the existing style guide. Style guides are meant to be a reference, to aid us in making decisions for consistency. Sometimes, following the style guide results in choices that don’t suit the circumstance. This is especially true given how quickly language evolves through the work of advocates and social justice movements. Style guides and dictionaries don’t always keep up with how to style terms related to social identities and human rights. If we come across a style guide that’s outdated, we can ask that it be updated to reflect current guidance.

Don’t: Never assume you know everything. The best editors are curious and recognize when they don’t know something or aren’t sure. We are trained to look things up so that the story or the copy is as accurate and clear as possible. If we have any doubt, it’s safer to double-check and be right than to assume and get it wrong.



Debbie Innes
Editor and proofreader, Debbie the Editor
Years editing: 10
Specialty: Copyediting, proofreading
Type of material: Annual reports, website content, corporate reports, nonfiction manuscripts, children’s books, newsletters, brochures, members’ magazines, university student handbooks, media advisories and news releases

Do: If you’re a freelance editor, don’t accept a project with a very low rate, if you can help it. Your skills and experience are worth more than that. Know your worth.

Don’t: Never stop learning. (Most editors know this, but I’m saying it anyway.)



Erica James
Editor, MasterPieces Writing and Editing LLC
Years editing: 6
Specialty: Book coaching (which includes developmental, line, and copyediting)
Type of material: Book manuscripts, academic papers, professional writing, business copy, social media content, website content, digital products

Do: Operate in your gifts both proudly and boldly. Regardless of how many other editors are making their mark on the literary world, no one is making their mark exactly the same. It’s important to know what you do best and to do it well, without fearing the outcome.

Don’t: Don’t take on projects without a clear game plan. To ensure your clients receive high- quality work, it’s best to implement a process that reduces stress and allows you to complete tasks within a reasonable time frame. Editing can be tedious at times; therefore, it’s crucial to know how much of your time and resources will be needed for each project and to plan accordingly. Also, be willing to say no if a project doesn’t align with your process.



Jessica LeeAnn
Editor, Chocolate Readings
Years editing: 14
Specialty: Developmental
Type of material: Fiction and nonfiction manuscripts

Do: Be honest.
Don’t: Discount your rates.



Kassel Pierre-Jean
Editor, Razorfish Health
Years editing: 15
Specialty: Copyediting
Type of material: Print/digital ads, direct mailers, websites, banner ads, conference panels, white papers

Do: Find an editor who is better than you and learn from them. They don’t necessarily need to be a mentor. Just someone you feel has mastered the skill and craft of editing — someone you respect.

Don’t: Don’t be a narcissist. Never act like you know it all. There’s always more to learn, and language and grammar are always changing. Be humble.



Lakeisha Bell Cadogan
Editor, Freelancer
Years editing: 3
Specialty: Substantive
Type of material: Fiction and nonfiction manuscripts

Do: Continuously strive to become a better editor. In the same way that writers should be consistently honing their craft, we, as editors, need to do the same. Taking courses is great, but there are other options too, like reading books and attending seminars (in -person or online). Also, join editing groups on social media. It’s a great way to make friends and learn from other people.

Don’t: A core principle in my business is: Do no harm. As editors, we should never remove the writer’s voice when editing their work. Yes, we can make changes, but that doesn’t mean we should impose our personal views on the writer’s work. The primary goal is to help the writer achieve their best work.



Lourdes Venard
Editor and instructor, University of California, San Diego’s Copyediting Program and Editorial Freelancers Association
Specialty: Copyediting
Type of material: Fiction and nonfiction manuscripts

Do: Read, read, read — especially in the genre or subject area in which you edit or hope to edit. The late Amy Einsohn, who wrote The Copyeditor’s Handbook, said the novice should have a “well-tuned ear.” But this ear can be difficult to develop if you aren’t reading widely. And if you are editing fiction, join a book club. It forces you to read books you might not pick up, and it also is an education to hear how other readers feel about a book and the writing.

Don’t: Don’t be inflexible. Yes, there are grammar and style rules to be followed, but some of these are not set in stone. And even those set in stone can be broken at times. Novice editors often get so hung up on the “rules” that they miss what the writer is trying to achieve. Language can be playful; we, as editors, should allow for that and be open to how language is always changing.



Lyric Dodson
Editor, Editing by Lyric
Years editing: 6
Specialty: Copyediting
Type of material: Blog posts, nonfiction books

Do: If you’re working as a freelancer, get everything in writing! It can seem intimidating to write up a contract that hits all the important points, but it’s absolutely imperative that you do so. You most likely won’t encounter troublesome clients too often as you work, but there is a chance you will — and you want to be prepared if anything happens.

Don’t: Never undersell yourself! Setting your prices is one of the most important things you’ll do, so it’s incredibly important that you charge what you’re worth, no matter how “outrageous” you think your prices are. Remember, you’re charging not only for your time and expertise, but also for the potential return on investment your client can expect to gain in the long run. Don’t price gouge for the sake of making a few extra dollars, but don’t undercut yourself either.



Renee’ D. Campbell
Editor and proofreader, MyPen Syl Writes
Years editing: 15+
Specialty: Substantive editing
Type of material: Résumés, books (fiction, comedy, sci-fi, poetry), white papers, research papers, marketing material, presentations, infographics, websites

Do: Attention to detail is key when editing. Take the role of editor seriously, as the author is entrusting their words to you.
Don’t: Do not promise what you cannot deliver! Deadlines are key!



Taiia Smart Young
Editor, Smart Girl Media
Years editing: 26
Specialty: Developmental editing
Type of material: Self-help, memoir, personal development, spirituality

Do: Edit work that you have some experience with or connection to.
Don’t: Never be afraid to turn down a client.


CaTyra Polland, MA, is the CEO of Love for Words, an editing boutique. She is also a published author and the hostess/creator of Editor Knows Best Podcast. http://www.pollandllc.com.

Cynthia Williams is a department manager at Dragonfly Editorial and interviews editors of color at Outside-the-Book.com.

Renee Clark

Recent graduate
Major: Business Administration
Location: Florida

What interests you about copyediting?
One of the things that interests me about copyediting is the challenge of learning something new. About a year ago, I was itching to change careers and find something that was more fulfilling. While I was skimming possible courses to take — and different job boards — the website for the Editorial Freelance Association (EFA) popped up. After searching the site, I thought this would be a great place to start. And, luckily, it was! 

What area(s) of copyediting are you interested in?
I am most interested in blogs and articles centered around the current retail space and retail technology. But as I gain more experience, I hope to copyedit short stories and young adult novels. 

How are you nurturing/developing your interest in copyediting (or similar interests), especially during COVID?
Taking courses through the EFA has been extremely helpful. I have taken copyediting courses and listened to webinars on how to build a freelance business. I am now practicing using The Chicago Manual of Style. Also, I have joined ACES: The Society for Editing to continue my course training. I plan to attend the ACES annual conference in April. It will be my first conference, so I am a little sad that it won’t be in person — but I’m really excited to connect with other editors and enjoy the experience.

What, if any, copyediting experience have you had so far, and what did you like about the project, organization, or tasks?
My copyediting experience comes from projects given to me by friends and family. One proofreading project from a friend focused on how to give the best customer experience. It was a small project, but I felt good about helping her enhance her thoughts and create a cohesive project she could feel proud to share with her team. Currently, I am seeking work with local businesses and nonprofit organizations to build my portfolio. 

What would most help young editors (and editors of color) enter the editing profession?Staying consistent and staying positive. Looking for copyediting work can be daunting at first. One of the courses I took through the EFA was called Getting Editorial Work from Publishers and Book Packagers. That course helped me change the way I search and ask for work. I found out what a letter of introduction was and the importance of setting up a to-do list for marketing yourself and strategizing about your goals. The course also covered using social media. Joining groups and following other editors, authors, and publishing companies can be a great way to find clients who may be interested in your skill set.

Anything else you might want readers to know about diversity in editing/publishing, or about starting out in this profession?
If you are just starting out in editing, I would suggest finding a niche, something that you are an expert at that can really show off your knowledge. Connecting with other professionals in that area could, potentially, get you your first job. I found my niche with my retail background and have connected with some great people. I’m crossing my fingers in hopes of finding my first gig soon.

Otito Frances Iwuchukwu

Years editing: 8 years
Job title: Pharmacist-educator (day job), consultant
Job description: Teaches and conducts research in the life sciences; edits technical writing in the life and social sciences, business writing, narrative nonfiction, and children’s books
Location: New Jersey

EXPERIENCE

How did you get your current job?
I got my current job through a job board posting. I get freelance editing projects through marketing on social media and through client referrals, for the most part.

What training do you have in copyediting and what positions have you held? 
I have the Poynter ACES Certificate in Editing and have taken a plethora of self-directed courses from the Editorial Freelancers Association (EFA) and ACES: The Society for Editing. I get on-the-job learning with every project.

DOING THE JOB

Are there any complementary skills that are important in your job?
Subject matter expertise is the basis of what I do. Because we’re in a digitally driven economy, though, social media and technology skills are more important now than they have ever been, no matter your area of work. 

Also, a skill that has helped me a lot is reflective listening, hearing what the client is not saying directly in the consultation and being able to reframe their focus and move them along the path to their desired outcomes. 

Do you use any editing tools to get the job done (e.g., PerfectIt, Adobe stamps)? 
I use Paul Beverley’s suite of macros (and have gone through his training as well), in addition to PerfectIt. I do the majority of my work in Microsoft Word, so I find PerfectIt and a set of shortcut keys with the macros to be most useful right now. 

I do a general document analysis with Paul’s macros, to look for things such as treatment of numerals and the serial comma, curly and straight quotes, line and page breaks, UK versus US spelling, and em and en dashes. I follow that with a general cleanup before I start working on the finer details of structure, syntax, and context. I use PerfectIt at the end for a final consistency check and a final check for US or UK spelling. 

COMMUNICATING WITH OTHERS

How do you and your colleagues talk about editing with each other?
I am the sole consultant editor for my clients at the moment, but there is future likelihood of a partnership to serve more clients in the humanities and law.

Do you participate in a community (or communities) that supports editors?
Oh, yes. I am a member of ACES and the Council of Science Editors. For support groups, I am in the smaller spin-off groups within the Editors’ Association of Earth (EAE) Facebook group: the EAE Backroom and the Business and Professional Development groups. I also recently found the Black Editors Network through an Outside-the-Book.com profile on the founder, Tia Ross.

Do you have any thoughts on the need for editors to network and talk about what they do?
Hard work is critical. Editing is hard work and requires a level of attention to detail that may not be required of some jobs. However, if you are a freelancer or a consultant, then you have to work to get chargeable work. Networking, getting to know people, and having them get to know you and what you do are crucial elements to moving the field forward. I am so glad that there are now more virtual opportunities to meet up and network that do not necessarily involve showing up for face-to-face meetings. 

It seems like introversion comes with many editor territories, but if people don’t know you, how can they work with you? (This coming from a person who would rather curl up with a good book at home any day than spend that time at a meet and greet.) 

How might we get buy-in during the editing process from authors who may not be receptive to changes?
I always tell my clients to imagine life from their readers’ perspectives: They should want to make the reading of their written work as smooth as possible for the audience. And since we all get so attached to our work, it pays (even though it may be uncomfortable) to sit back and consider the editor’s suggestions. Because in the long run, if you didn’t think there was any value to having a second or third pair of eyes on your work, then we would not be collaborating on your project.

BUILDING DIVERSITY

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? 
I think the issue of structural racism has no bounds — cutting across all professions, really — and copyediting would be no exception. However, a peculiar issue for me is that akin to the sour cherry on the cake: people questioning your perceived command or mastery of the English language due to your name. They assume you cannot speak or write English, and so you can’t possibly edit their work. 

I always laugh those comments off, because I frankly feel my time could be better spent defending other issues. I would not want to work closely (by choice) with anyone who doubts my competence. Although I am multilingual, speaking and writing in four languages, I think in English. That was the first language I spoke, and British English is the official language of the country I was born in. Needless to say, I am always puzzled when people talk about native and non-native English speakers, as though being native in and of itself gives one a pass on English mastery, talk less of editing skills.

Any suggestions on what offices/employers could do to increase diversity in your field of editing?
Increasing diversity is not a “nice to have” component of an organization. It’s necessary, especially in the “reproductive” work that is publishing (“reproductive” in that writing and publishing are huge ways that writers get to put parts of themselves out in the world for posterity). “Hire, support, retain” should be an aspiration. And support looks different for different people. We need to see people who look like us all through the publishing chain, from acquisition to the final published work. As an editor, I am happy to be contributing to getting diverse books out there. 

THE PERSONAL

Tell us about a project that you’re proud of.
I work with a lot of authors who are physicians and educators and choose to be independently published. One of my favorite projects in the children’s book genre is a series on Mia, a little girl who has big dreams and a village of people supporting her and helping her find her voice. This project resonated so much with my background growing up in a more collectivist society, where everyone had a hand in helping raise a child and ensuring they were successful at what they wanted to do or be. And the author is an educator, like me.

In the adult genre, one of my favorites was a self-help book for physicians (Physician Heal Yourself) written by a physician, author, and coach. The writer wanted to continue the work of helping physicians defeat burnout on the job with strategies that had worked for her and her clients over her many years in the personal and professional development field.

Any hobbies you’d like to share with us?
I am a self-confessed bibliophile. Curiosity and a love of learning are two of my top strengths on the VIA character strengths survey. I love books, reading them and collecting them. I think reading widely and avidly is a gift we give ourselves, as we get to expand our world so much more and help contribute to increased diversity. 

A huge part of my collection includes cookbooks, because I consider myself a professional home cook, if such a thing exists. Mixing, matching, and creating new recipes in the kitchen bring me so much joy. And because way back in graduate school I worked in an organic chemistry lab synthesizing new molecules from various reactants, I like to use the analogy that my kitchen is my home lab, where I synthesize new ready-to-eat products using naturally sourced ingredients. 

RESOURCES

What resources would you share with fellow editors?
Oh, my — too many to mention. The relevant style guides that apply to one’s field are indispensable. For books, I would recommend The Subversive Copyeditor, by Carol Saller, and What Editors Do, edited by Peter Ginna. The Copyeditor’s Handbook, by Amy Einsohn and Marilyn Schwartz, is almost like a style guide. For associations, I have found ACES and the EFA to be really good resources. 

On an individual level, I recommend editors whose labor of love in doing their own work has contributed to my growth in this field: Katharine O’Moore-Klopf (KOK Edit), Erin Brenner (Right Touch Editing), Louise Harnby (The Editing Blog), and Jake Poinier (Dr. Freelance). 

Is there anything else you’d like readers to know about you or about diversity in the profession?
I am so happy to be doing this work and contributing to elevating the voices of writers of color. I believe everyone has a voice, and for many, writing is the best form of expression. While some are born into the English language, others are raised and rise into it. Either way, we all get to use this amazing language to impact our world.  

I can be reached at editor@getfabediting.com.

Chris Obudho

Years editing: 15 years
Job title: Owner of CJO Writing + Editing LLC
Job description: Writing and editing technical and marketing copy
Location: Indiana

EXPERIENCE

How did you get your current job?
I work with a broad array of clients to write an equally broad array of products, including blogs, product descriptions, press releases, articles, social media posts. I also edit scientific journal articles, LinkedIn articles, corporate training courses, government agency newsletters, and many other materials. Every day is truly different!

I fell in love with the process of editing about 15 years ago while working on political campaigns. Polishing press releases, campaign plans, and other documents was (and is) intellectually stimulating. Finding the right words, correcting mistakes, and making the message clear is fascinating (and can be fun)!

I’ve always had a desire to work for myself. The opportunity arose when I left an advertising agency (where I served as the primary proofreader) here in Indiana. I landed my first client after offering to help them create an in-house style guide. They’re a copper fittings manufacturer and their long-serving marketing manager had been struggling with consistent messaging and style. I thought a style guide would be a great first project. 

The president of the ad agency I’d left actually referred them to me. Maintaining relationships throughout an organization is key. That first client led to others, and now I’m going into my third year and (fingers crossed) many more.

What training do you have in copyediting, and what positions have you held?
I have a liberal arts B.A. from William Paterson University — so no specific copyediting training. Over the years, I have gained an appreciation for the nuances of the language. I had the opportunity to work for many political and public affairs campaigns, which, obviously, require strong language skills. 

I also was lead writer and editor for the Hurricane Sandy recovery efforts of the US Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) in New Jersey, an effort that involved working with architectural, engineering, community planning, and public affairs experts. 

At the ad agency, I worked with many corporate clients (Whirlpool, Fifth/Third Bank, Amway, Stryker, etc.) to write and edit various documents (digital and print).

DOING THE JOB

Are there any complementary skills that are important in your job?
I’ve come to realize that basic graphic design and layout skills can improve your chances of landing a project. Even if it’s just understanding how to lay out something in Microsoft Publisher, you can offer that extra service and add value to your client. 

I have a love-hate relationship with social media. On the one hand, I think it’s an important skill to have. But I’m seeing some transfer of the “240 character” mindset to other types of writing, and I don’t really think that’s healthy (though linguistic evolution is a thing!). Being able to distill a fairly complex thought into short, concise content is an important skill to have. 

I’m a generalist, and I know that’s bitten me in the backside looking for jobs, because many employers feel that their industry is so unique that you have to have a graduate level of knowledge to even walk in the door! I think generalists with skills and interests in writing, editing, leadership, communications, discipline, attention to detail, patience, curiosity, and teachability are just as valuable as someone with a degree in mid-century Venezuelan agricultural history (apologies if that’s a real degree)!

Do you use any editing tools to get the job done (e.g., PerfectIt, Adobe stamps)? 
Most of my editing is done in Microsoft Word, so I don’t use any other tool. I don’t use macros either! I do some editing in Adobe and just use the edit option. Pretty basic stuff.

COMMUNICATING WITH OTHERS

How do you and your colleagues talk about editing with each other?
When I was the proofreader and editor for the ad agency, I was responsible for training my backups. We would have periodic discussions (once a month or so) about the in-house style guide, proofreading marks, other style guides that clients used (AP, Chicago Manual of Style, etc.), and other grammatical topics, to make sure everyone was up to speed. They weren’t “word nerds” necessarily but understood the importance of consistency with the different client documents.

Do you participate in a community (or communities) that supports editors?
Unfortunately, I don’t. I’ve often meant to join something like ACES: The Society for Editing or Society for Technical Communication, but I never seemed to find the time or resources to attend conferences. I’d like to one day!

Do you have any thoughts on the need for editors to network and talk about what they do?
It all depends. What are your career goals? If you want to head a large copyediting operation at a corporation or newspaper, then networking, interning, having great clips and samples, etc., will definitely help. Obviously, you have to get work in that organization, but once you do, it definitely won’t hurt to network both internally and outside the company.

Starting your own shop means you definitely have to network. I hate cold calling, but this is where social media may be a good place to start. For example, find local people you’d like to work with and connect with them on LinkedIn. Ask for a coffee or lunch meeting to pick their brain about their industry and begin to build that relationship. Be patient. Don’t focus on what you want from them, but on what you can give to them. Be open. Be friendly. Be humble.

A colleague of mine said his secret (he’s in financial public relations) is simple: “Do good work.” That’s stuck with me. My first client liked my work, which built my confidence and pushed me to seek more work. I did good work for the next client, and so on and so on.

Editing is a very solitary exercise, but being around people can be helpful to both your mental and emotional health, and your professional progression.

Another way to network is to go to a co-working space. You never know who you’ll meet there. I actually picked up a client that way too.

How might we get buy-in during the editing process from authors who may not be receptive to changes?
Writing is a very personal process. Spending all of that time developing an idea, writing, rewriting, and having the courage to put it out there is a big deal. Empathy and professionalism are the keys, in my opinion (and all of the editors and proofreaders I’ve met have been authors at some point). Understanding what the author has gone through is a great way to connect. Explain your editing process so they know what to expect. After you’ve read their piece, compliment them on it (regardless of how it looks, reads, or feels to you!). You should already know the purpose of the piece, so explain that your editing is part of reaching that goal and you look forward to teaming with them to make it happen.

Once you’ve made the suggested revisions, walk the author through each one and have a justification for each change (no matter how small). Be professional about it. The first edit for a new author is always the toughest, but once they see that you’ve “done good work,” they’ll be more receptive to the editing process.

BUILDING DIVERSITY

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? 
Thankfully, I haven’t faced any racial issues with respect to getting jobs or clients. Now, maybe I didn’t get a job along the way because I’m black, but I never knew about it. Throughout my career, I haven’t worked with very many people of color (POCs) in the writing, editing, and proofreading space. I do see many online.

Any suggestions on what offices/employers could do to increase diversity in your field of editing?
Whew! That’s an interesting and tough question. I think that it has to be addressed from both sides (i.e., what can employers do and how can we get more POCs interested in the field?). As I mentioned earlier, I didn’t see many POCs working in this field. That’s got to change. According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, in 2019, only 15% of editors were POCs.

Our broader mission as editors is to make communications clear between our clients/companies and their audiences. It can’t just be on the employers to do this. POCs often have unique perspectives to bring to editing. Building a love for precision, curiosity, and attention to detail is a great way to become more attractive to employers. Are these intangible skills being taught in schools now? I don’t think so. That may be the more fundamental issue. 

THE PERSONAL

Tell us about a project that you’re proud of.
One of the largest documentation projects I worked on was a statewide disaster recovery plan called the Recovery Support Strategy. The plan involved multiple federal and state agencies and laid out how FEMA and other federal agencies would assist New Jersey with recovering from the devastation of Hurricane Sandy. Over about 10 months and thousands of hours from dozens of agencies, we wrote, edited, revised, and sought approval for this plan, which would help my home state recover. I had the opportunity to work with some of the smartest, most talented, and dedicated people in the country. As the process went on, I was given the responsibility of leading the project to completion (final edits, final approvals, and submission to FEMA leadership and the governor).

On some days, a stack of copies of the plan that had been sent out for reviews by various stakeholders was piled on my desk (3-4 feet high!). I had to make updates to the master copy. Lots of nights and weekends reviewing, revising, and pulling my hair out attempting to keep things on track. We used hard copies for most things, so daily, my supervisor (or another reviewer) would drop an additional reviewed copy on my desk with a thud and say, “Here are more revisions. Good luck!” 

I learned a lot from that process: I worked with people of varying experience and interest levels. I learned more about grammar. I saw how a large government project works. That’s when I really knew I loved editing!

Any hobbies you’d like to share with us?
I’m a super Star Wars nerd and spend way too much time thinking and reading about what’s canon and what’s not! I also became an accidental gardener when I started feeding birds and squirrels in my backyard and they dropped or buried some seeds. Surprise! Sunflowers, sorghum, and corn sprouted up. That pushed me to find out what else I could grow, and now I have fresh basil, lettuce, cilantro, and, hopefully next year, a bounty of fresh vegetables!

RESOURCES

What resources would you share with fellow editors?
Match and search games. I spend a lot of time using these to help hone my attention to detail. Games like Find Objects, June’s Journey, and Find the Difference are great detail-oriented games that can keep editors sharp.

The more traditional resources I use a lot include the Title Case Converter and Google’s Ngram tool. Ngram has helped me justify a word choice on many occasions.

Is there anything else you’d like readers to know about you or about diversity in the profession?
I really appreciate the chance to share some thoughts with your readers. Increasing the representation of POCs in the writing, editing, and proofreading space is a noble goal, and I think there just needs to be more interest in the precise use of the language. Whether you’re a prescriptivist or descriptivist, there should be a baseline of accuracy before you can start “riffing” with words. How do you get there? It’s got to start young. Read to kids. Correct mistakes (lovingly). Play word games. We can build future generations of editors by starting early!

Melissa Brown Levine

  • Years editing: 9 years
  • Job title: Owner and senior editor at Brown Levine Productions
  • Location: Georgia

EXPERIENCE

How did you get your current job?
I created my job after working in corporate America for several years. I always had a side hustle when I worked for other people, so the foundation for the move from employee to business owner was in place. The biggest hurdle was making the leap from the perceived security of full-time employment to the often unstable world of freelancing. In essence, my fear presented as the largest obstacle. 

To get over it, I set a date to leave my job. I saved aggressively during the lead-up to the transition, and I confided in a close friend who held me accountable. Every time I doubted my decision or considered pushing my leave date back, she would challenge me to stay the course.

As I prepared to shift into freelancing full time, I created a résumé that featured the freelance editing and writing I had done over the years and developed a letter that I sent to publishers and other potential clients to introduce myself and outline my services.

What copyediting training have you had?
My entry into copyediting was not traditional. I was not employed as a copyeditor before I shifted into freelancing full time. While employed as a technical service librarian, I freelanced as a book reviewer and copywriter. The book review service I wrote for focused on the work of independent authors whose books were often in need of copyediting. So a lot of my efforts beyond reading the books and writing the reviews involved detailing for authors the problems with grammar and punctuation, as well as structure and organization, in their books. This led to requests for copyediting services, which meant that I needed to hone my editing skills.

Regarding training, I have a master’s degree in professional writing, but when I was preparing to freelance full time and afterward, I also took online courses that focused on copywriting and proofreading. However, I would say that the best training I have received as a copyeditor has come from client feedback. That can be a rare thing in freelancing (often, feedback will come in the form of not sending subsequent assignments if the first one wasn’t to the client’s liking), but those clients who take the time to remark on what went well with a project and what they expect for future assignments offer what amounts to valuable on-the-job training.

DOING THE JOB

Are there any complementary skills that are important in your job?
Marketing is an important factor in freelance copyediting. The initial introductory letters that I sent out during my transition to self-employment helped me build my client base. I maintain a website for my business, and I also have a presence on LinkedIn. In fact, the owner of Dragonfly Editorial found me on LinkedIn a few years ago, and I’ve completed work for the company on an ongoing basis since then.

Subject matter expertise is another tool that has helped me. My degrees and experience in psychology and counseling have been important when completing copyediting assignments for academic and nonprofit clients.

Flexibility and the willingness to learn are significant skills for copyeditors to hone. For example, editing government proposals and journal articles based on clients’ specific style guidelines requires copyeditors to be accommodating of their clients’ needs. Copyeditors may also need to learn unfamiliar software, such as SharePoint or a specific project management system.

Do you use any editing tools to get the job done (e.g., PerfectIt, Adobe stamps)? 
I have what I call a “setup process” when I begin a copyedit. I run PerfectIt first. This program does a great job of identifying inconsistencies in spelling, capitalization, and hyphenation. It does a fairly good job of identifying acronyms that have been spelled out in more than one place in a document. For government proposals that are often acronym heavy, running PerfectIt first allows the copyediting to flow smoother because I don’t have to keep stopping to run them down. And if the client requests that a list of acronyms be added to the style sheet, PerfectIt is an extremely valuable tool during a copyedit.

Next, I run spell-check. This helps me to clear out the obvious spelling and grammar errors before I begin reading the doc. If the program brings up hundreds of possible errors, then I know I’m in trouble. Once I complete that review, I do a search for any client-specific requirements. For example, number ranges that are separated by a hyphen instead of an en dash. More specifically, I have one client who does not allow the use of the ellipses symbol (…); instead, the preference is spaced periods (. . .). Some clients have macros that make the specific housekeeping changes to the document, so I will run those before starting the edit.

After the edit is complete, I search for extra spaces after punctuation and run spell-check again. Instead of running PerfectIt a second time, I often use the PerfectIt Consistency Checker, which is an add-in for Office 365. It covers the basics of the PerfectIt program (spelling, capitalization, hyphenation, numbers, etc.) but faster.

Finally, I plop the document into Grammarly. I have found that this program is really helpful when editing the work of writers whose first language is not English. Such writers often leave out definite and indefinite articles, and Grammarly catches the instances of this type of error that I miss because my brain filled them in during the edit. The program is also often better at spell-check than Office 365.

These programs help the editing progress faster, but they also serve as another set of eyes after I have completed the copyedit.

COMMUNICATING WITH OTHERS

How do you and your colleagues talk about editing with each other?
I am the sole employee of Brown Levine Productions, so if I am facing problems or concerns about a project, I go directly to the client, offer my suggestions for how I think issues should be handled, and then ask for further guidance. 

When I work on group editing projects with Dragonfly Editorial, I have the opportunity to discuss editing with the lead editor and others on the project via chat, which helps the editing process move along faster and smoother, because I’m not making all of the decisions about the edit on my own.

Do you participate in a community (or communities) that supports editors?
Outside of my contact with clients and the editors I work with on specific group projects, I have taken classes with editors. This provided insight into how other people approach editing and broadened my understanding of how to respectfully approach a writer’s work when embarking on a copyedit.

Do you have any thoughts on the need for editors to network and talk about what they do?
I do think that a copyeditor’s work can and does speak for itself. In my case, doing good work means that I receive more projects from my clients and even have people seek me out to offer me work. 

I think networking and talking about the profession are important, but engagement should also be based on the individual’s preferences and personality type. I am a solid introvert, so the work I am doing now as a freelancer is pretty much my dream job. I don’t do a lot of networking, but I do happily respond to inquiries from people interested in getting into the field. I also consume quite a bit of information about copyediting from blogs, listservs, and articles.

How might we get buy-in during the editing process from the non-editor colleagues with whom we work?
I think we gain buy-in by positioning ourselves as part of the writer’s/non-editor’s team. This happens when we clarify the writer’s expectations before the edit, and during the editing process, when we ask questions and make suggestions about the material based on our experience and what we are seeing in the text. 

I also think that using the right language in queries helps to put writers at ease about the editing process. I use “we” a lot when asking questions about a document (e.g., “Should we include a quote from all five of the presenters mentioned in the text, instead of only two?”). I think this gives the author a sense of being supported, instead of feeling reprimanded for not being thorough. 

I do a lot of fact-checking and add live links for information that I introduce in a query, so the author can make a decision about information based on more than my suggestions. 

I think it’s important that we communicate to writers that they are still ultimately in control of their work; we’re simply here to make it better.

BUILDING DIVERSITY

How diverse is your office? 
My business is Black and woman owned, but I do work with clients and other editors who represent a diverse body in regard to race and gender.

Any suggestions on what offices/employers could do to increase diversity in your field of editing?
I find that the field of copyediting is not one that a lot of people are aware of outside of traditional book publishing. Perhaps more outreach to students at state universities and historically Black colleges and universities, as well as the creation of editorial internships, will increase awareness of this field for a diverse population.

Have you faced any hurdles in getting into/advancing in the copyediting profession because you are a person of color? (These can be systemic, personal, environmental.) Or have you observed such barriers for others? Tell us about that.
I think (perhaps naively) that this may be a problem that a person of color would encounter more often when applying for or seeking advancement in a traditional, direct-hire position, as opposed to freelancing. I am generally hired based on the successful completion of a copyediting test. 

Now, it is possible that I have submitted my résumé to a managing editor who looked at my website and my LinkedIn page and decided not to hire me because of my race, but frankly, that doesn’t touch me directly. There are numerous opportunities for work in this field as a freelancer, so if I am actively seeking clients, I just keep reaching out to organizations until I add the number of clients I feel able to handle at a given time. 

Ultimately, it’s my skill set that gets me hired and keeps clients coming back to me. If I haven’t been hired because someone took a look at my website and saw my Black face, then they did us both a favor, because that’s not the type of company I want to invest my time and skill in. 

I do think that it would benefit the field to have more people of color copyediting in businesses and as freelancers, because we bring different perspectives to the content that is being produced.

THE PERSONAL

Tell us about a project that you’re proud of.
I recently received an urgent request from a nonprofit client to complete a substantive edit of a personal account of one of the firm’s representatives who participated in the George Floyd protests in Minnesota. The representative, who lives in the neighborhood where Mr. Floyd was killed, reported several occurrences of outside agitators coming into the community with the intention of destroying property. The representative even found a car stocked with gasoline canisters. 

The story was relayed during a conversation over the phone. So I was given an extremely rough draft, with instructions to bring all of my skills to the project and to return the edit as soon as possible. Three hours later, I’d restructured the piece and completed a copyedit. 

I am proud of that assignment because I was able to help an activist in Mr. Floyd’s community express her version of what was happening on the ground, as opposed to the mix of often-distorted stories that were provided by the media.

Any hobbies you’d like to share with us?
I am currently working on a novel. I’ve been writing the book for almost two years and hope to have a readable draft by the end of the summer. Most people probably don’t engage in their “hobbies” between midnight and 3:00 a.m., but that is the time that works best for me: there are no emails, no text messages, and no calls — just me and the characters and their stories.

RESOURCES

What resources would you share with fellow editors?
The current edition of the style guides your clients require you to use, as well as AP vs Chicago, Conscious Style Guide, Copyediting-L, and Power Thesaurus.

Kaitlin Littlechild

  • Years editing: 6
  • Job title: Editor, owner of Kaitlin Littlechild Editing
  • Job description: Edits reports, business and health publications, marketing material, web content, and academic work
  • Location: New Brunswick, Canada

EXPERIENCE

How did you get your current job?
I currently work for two different companies and run my own editing business. Networking played a pivotal role in securing the positions at both companies. In one case, someone who worked there learned of my skills and my areas of expertise. They suggested that my services would be beneficial for the company and arranged for me to have an interview. 

I learned about the second company through a friend. She pointed out that my skill set was a great fit for the company, and she encouraged me to reach out to them. Shortly after I contacted them about potential freelance work, they posted an in-house position and encouraged me to apply for that as well.

What copyediting training have you had?
I completed a certificate in editing from Simon Fraser University.

DOING THE JOB

Are there any complementary skills that are important in your job?
I work quite a bit on communications and marketing material. Understanding the basics of business communication and marketing strategies — as well as social media best practices and trends — has been important. Having education and experience in my areas of specialty (business and health) has opened doors for me to work on some exciting projects as well.

Do you use any editing tools to get the job done (e.g., PerfectIt, Adobe stamps)? 
I use PerfectIt for long documents. When I start work on a document, I run it through PerfectIt to clean up many of the inconsistencies. Often, this initial run allows me to create a list of decisions that I will need to make and things I need to watch for as I edit. When my editing is complete, I will run it through PerfectIt one more time to make sure that nothing was missed.

I also use macros, especially for repetitive tasks like fixing recurring punctuation errors. I recommend editors take the time to learn about the use of macros for editing.

COMMUNICATING WITH OTHERS

How do you and your colleagues talk about editing?
In my freelance work, I am the only editor. In my other role, I am one of two editors. I work remotely, and so we communicate virtually. We message back and forth throughout the day to ask questions, bounce ideas off each other, and communicate scheduling and workload needs. 

We worked together to create a style guide for the company, to make sure we apply the same editing decisions consistently. To create the style guide, we worked collaboratively to review existing written material to identify how things were currently being done. We also reviewed the company’s preferred standard style guide and adapted necessary style points to fit the needs of the type of work being done.

Do you participate in a community (or communities) that supports editors?
Yes, I am a member of Editors Canada and the Indigenous Editors Association.

Do you have any thoughts on the need for editors to network and talk about what they do?
I absolutely believe that networking and marketing are important for advancing the career of an editor. You have to put in the work to let people know that you are out there and what you have to offer. This can be difficult for many. I struggled with it in the beginning, but it pays off. It’s so important to network and tell others about editing and the value of editors.

Any advice for editors on getting buy-in from the non-editor colleagues with whom they work?
Show them the value of not only having a second set of eyes on a document, but a second set of trained eyes. I find that many reports and other documents produced by a company are written by several people. Having an editor do a final pass will not only catch any grammatical and spelling errors but also smooth out any differences in writing style so that the final product is consistent, clean, and professional.

THE PERSONAL

Tell us about a project that you’re proud of.
Fighting for a Hand to Hold: Confronting Medical Colonialism against Indigenous Children in Canada by Samir Shaheen-Hussain. The topic required the careful consideration of every word, not just an edit for grammar and spelling. The author and I worked together to ensure that the word choice was deliberate, accurate, and authentic. 

This is a notable project for me because it was the first with subject matter that required self-care and attention to my own emotions and reactions. Working through my reactions to the stories in this book was both challenging and rewarding.

Any hobbies you’d like to share with us?
When I’m not working, I can be found playing with my kids, tending to my garden, working on my latest crochet project, or reading a book just for fun.

Maisha Maurant

  • Years editing: 20
  • Job title: Chief corporate editor at Health Alliance Plan of Michigan
    (last editing role)
  • Location: Michigan

EXPERIENCE

How did you get your last editing job?
My last full-time editing role was chief corporate editor at Health Alliance Plan (HAP). I had previously worked with HAP’s vice president of marketing and community outreach. He encouraged me to apply. It was a great opportunity for me to move into a management role while being a hands-on editor. I looked forward to developing other writers and editors. It was a new function for the company, so it was also exciting to be responsible for implementing it. 

What other positions have you held?
Most recently, I was manager of culture and engagement at Beaumont Health, the largest health system in Michigan. Because of the impact of COVID-19, my position was eliminated in April.

I started out as a newspaper journalist. I left journalism to work in community development at  Focus: HOPE, a civil rights organization. After that, I was a project manager on the philanthropy team at the communications firm Williams Group, public affairs and events associate at the Jack Kent Cooke Foundation, communication coordinator at the Michigan Community Service Commission, and senior communications specialist at Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan. 

In addition to being chief corporate editor at HAP, I was also the manager of communication and creative services. I led a team of writers, graphic artists, and strategists. We worked on external marketing communications as well as internal communications. The latter included supporting corporatewide culture, engagement, and continuous improvement initiatives.

DOING THE JOB

Are there any complementary skills that were important in your jobs?
When I first joined Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan, I knew very little about the healthcare industry. I had to get up to speed quickly.

At HAP, I learned a lot more about developing online content from working with our social media team. I also had a great opportunity to build skills in user interface and user experience design when I led the content teams for our website and intranet redesign projects. 

Because I was also responsible for internal communications, my team worked collaboratively with the Human Resources Team. That work included a focus on workplace culture and employee engagement. 

Together, all these experiences have also made me a better leader, facilitator, and educator. 

Do you use any editing tools to get the job done (e.g., PerfectIt, Adobe stamps)? 
I use the online version of the AP Stylebook the most. I love the Ask the Editor feature. It’s likely that someone has already asked the question you have. I also consult Grammar Girl, The Chicago Manual of Style, and Grammarly

Conscious Style Guide is another important resource I use. You’ll find style guides and articles that cover a wide spectrum of topics that include age, ability/disability, gender/sex/sexuality, ethnicity, religion/spirituality, and plain language. The Conscious Style Guide is a great technical resource, but the other great value it provides is discussion of how language evolves and why conscious language matters. 

And, when I was working in healthcare, I found that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has a robust tool kit of plain language resources. Communicators have a critical responsibility to help individuals understand and navigate the healthcare system, so it’s encouraging that the CDC takes it so seriously. 

COMMUNICATING WITH OTHERS

How did you and your colleagues talk about editing with each other?
I was fortunate to collaborate with a great team of editors with diverse backgrounds. We learned a lot from each other, whether it was in a formal editorial meeting or just a stand-up conversation. As a result, we all contributed to evolving our style guide and editing approach. 

I remember there being a discussion about if we should capitalize “Deaf” in a publication. It turned out that someone on our team had worked at an organization that supports the Deaf community. He shared his insight from that experience and also did some additional research. It led to us capitalizing Deaf when discussing the community and including that in our style guide.

Do you participate in a community (or communities) that supports editors? 
I am a member of ACES: The Society for Editing, and I’m on its Executive Committee. It is a great community of all types of editors. Our members work at newspapers, magazines, book publishers, corporations, colleges and universities, and other types of institutions. They also own freelance businesses. We learn a lot from each other. 

Editors of Color is another fantastic means of connecting with other editors.

Do you have any thoughts on the need for editors to network and talk about what they do?
I think it’s extremely important to promote and share your expertise. This can be done by educating internal audiences, presenting at conferences, or consulting for individuals and organizations that can benefit from editing support.  

Networking is critical to an editor’s growth and development — and not just from a business standpoint. It helps us become better editors to engage with others who are passionate about this craft and adept at it. I highly recommend either joining an organization that supports editors or simply participating in events and activities with other editors. I’ve benefited so much from learning from editors, particularly those whose work is different from my own. 

Any advice for editors on getting buy-in from the non-editor colleagues with whom they work?
My primary tip is to explain your editing approach. I have had great success in getting support from non-editors when I’ve taken the time to talk about the edits or style choices I’ve made. It gives them a chance to learn, ask questions, and provide feedback. And once you start to do that, these colleagues often become your advocates with others in the organization. 

BUILDING DIVERSITY

How diverse was your office? Any suggestions on what offices/employers could do to increase diversity in your field of editing? 
In my department at HAP, our team was diverse in race and ethnicity, age, sexual orientation, and work experience. 

I think that recruitment and career advancement are key areas that greatly affect whether a team is diverse. Those in a position to hire and promote for editing positions should consider candidates who may not reflect the status quo. It is also important to have a diverse leadership team. They are in positions to ensure that diversity and inclusion are values inherent to all aspects of the organization. It’s also key that the environment supports team members having a voice and holding each other accountable for living up to those values. 

THE PERSONAL

Tell us about a project that you’re proud of.
I have really enjoyed being a member of the Executive Committee of ACES. I’ve had the opportunity to work on initiatives that support our members and contribute to the field of editing. 

One example is the launch of our Diversity and Inclusion Committee in 2018. I currently chair the committee. It’s been great to work with the ACES leadership team and our members to ensure our programs, training, conference, and other activities reflect and support the diversity of our membership. 

I’m also proud that ACES continually creates new opportunities to promote the expertise of the editors in our organization. 

Any hobbies you’d like to share with us?
I love movies and books. When theatres were open, I went to the movies almost every weekend. I also read a lot across a variety of genres. I completed a master’s degree last year, so my reading was devoted to school for quite some time. I have a backlog of books and TV shows to catch up on. That’s the only upside to recent events: I now have more time to get through the list. Lol.

Aliza Amlani

Years editing: 20 years
Job title: Freelance editor and writer
Job description: Update and refine technical, business, and educational content
Location: Toronto, Canada

EXPERIENCE

How did you get your current job?
I connected with two of my current clients via social media (one through a Facebook group and another via Twitter). I mainly work with guides, intranet content, and online learning materials. Some of my social media projects include editing content for a Europe-based organization and adapting it for North American audiences.

What copyediting training have you had?
In a way, I got into this line of work accidentally. I helped write simplified English content for promotional pamphlets at a summer job, which led to full-time work as a technical editor. Since then, I’ve written and edited technical guides, edited online-focused educational content, and worked on a lot of business content geared toward social media. I’ve also been taking part-time classes at George Brown College and Ryerson University for the last few years to help enhance my copyediting and writing skills. 

DOING THE JOB

Are there any complementary skills that are important in your job?
Writing plain-language and concise content for social media is super-important. So much content needs to be tailored for online audiences and social media. I’m also working on technical skills to boost content accessibility (e.g., adding subtitles to video, describing video and visual content, and ensuring that web copy can be read by screen readers [assistive technology]).

Do you use any editing tools to get the job done (e.g., PerfectIt, Adobe stamps)? 
Nope! I’m a little old school this way. I tried one of the popular tools once and it missed so many big things. So I didn’t think it would be all that useful for my work. 

COMMUNICATING WITH OTHERS

How do you and your colleagues talk about editing among each other?
Right now, I’m flying solo. On a previous in-house project, I had a great team of editors, and we’d often discuss issues or questions on Slack or in-person chats. I still keep in touch with many former colleagues and am always learning from them, as well as other friends who are freelancers or in-house writers and editors. It’s always good to surround yourself with other word nerds.

Do you participate in a community (or communities) that supports editors?
I occasionally participate in communities on social media, but I often do more reading than chatting within many of these (e.g., Facebook groups, Twitter chats). Some examples of Facebook groups I enjoy are EAE Backroom, Editors of Color, and Writing the Other.

Do you have any thoughts on the need for editors to network and talk about what they do?
Networking is vital, especially for work like mine, which often involves internal or proprietary content that can’t be shared in a standard portfolio. I also find it’s helpful to talk about the details of what I do. I have found that many people mix up proofreading and other types of editing, and often think of any form of editing as either unnecessary or a bonus, but not essential.

Any advice for editors on getting buy-in from the non-editor colleagues with whom they work?
I think it’s important to focus on the fact that editors can help organizations perfect and enhance their messaging, especially in this current moment when (I’m hoping) more people understand how much their words matter.

THE PERSONAL

Tell us about a project that you’re proud of.
On a recent project, I helped to update an internal style guide with content and guidance around writing about different communities to promote inclusivity. Some of the advice included using an uppercase “B” in “Black” and using the singular “they.” I’m proud of any opportunity to improve language in this way and to help others understand how small changes can make a big difference to many people.

Any hobbies you’d like to share with us?
I love listening to many different types of music — I’m getting back into the Hamilton soundtrack these days (it’s the last show I saw before the lockdown)! I also love travel and will be excited to get back to that when it’s safe to do so. I think much of my work has been influenced by my interest in and exploration of different parts of the world.

RESOURCES

What resources would you share with fellow editors?
Conscious Style Guide is an excellent resource, and its offshoot, Editors of Color, is a great database if you’re looking to diversify your editorial staff.