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Behind every great writer there is a great editor. Editors help writers with their written text to make it more accurate, appealing and effective for publication. They review, evaluate and edit manuscripts, articles, news reports and other material for publication or broadcast, and coordinate the activities of writers, journalists and other staff. Thanks to editors, publications are not only grammatically and syntactically correct, but really good works of literature.

Editors usually specialize in a particular subject area, such as news, sports or features, or in a particular type of publication, such as books, magazines, newspapers or manuals. Book editors, for example, may acquire new books for publication with their publishing companies or supervise the progress of literary works from manuscript to printed book. They are responsible for contacting and interviewing prospective authors of fiction and non-fiction works, making recommendations to the publisher, and negotiating contracts with the author or the author's agent. Newspaper editors may supervise reporters covering topics such as sports, business, entertainment, fashion, food, photographs, design and graphics.

Editing is a highly specialized profession and they do some serious thinking on behalf of the writer, the reader and the publisher. Any organization that publishes literature requires an editor. Therefore, they also work for large corporations, website developers, governments and non-profit organizations, producing regular newsletters and publicity documents. These days, editors are doing more and more contract, or freelance work for a wide variety of organizations. One assignment could be for a newspaper, while the next for a children's charity organization.

Editors often have supervisory responsibilities in addition to their editorial responsibilities in the book, newspaper and magazine publishing industries. Senior editors are usually the people in charge and are ultimately responsible for seeing that everything gets done before deadlines. They also make decisions about which books or articles they want to publish. Editing involves much more than simply checking essays and manuscripts for spelling errors or improper footnotes. They are also involved in acquisitions, developmental work, stylistic editing, copy editing and research. Some also coordinate the design and layout of a book, magazine or newspaper, including any pictures, graphs or charts which are to appear in it.

The editing industry might best be described as a long process that starts out with good basic ideas, and ends with a polished final product which effectively communicates an idea to an audience of readers. Computers also play an important part in the publishing process. Familiarity with one or more systems and word-processing programs can increase your usefulness as an editor. For corporate and technical work, expertise with computer graphics and page layouts will also yield benefits. In addition, the computer screen has itself become a new print medium, with its own editorial rules and requirements.
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  Interests and Skills  
Editors must have a facility for and love of language and a proficiency in grammar, spelling, and composition. They must have the ability to work with people and independently, while making informed, logical decisions. They must be able to criticize effectively, while taking criticism as well. Editors must love to read and marvel at the idea of improving language and style.

They must have an elephantine memory and a sharp eye for detail. Editors will be held responsible for any flaws left in a printed text. They should have an instinct for recognizing patterns, creating categories, and organizing ideas, be willing to question assumptions, theories, and facts and most importantly have the ability to recognize what's missing in content, argument or presentation.

  Typical Tasks  
  • Evaluate manuscripts, articles, news copy and wire service dispatches for publication or broadcast
  • Recommend or make changes in content, style and organization of submitted copies
  • Correct errors in spelling, grammar and syntax, and shorten or lengthen copy as required
  • Confer with authors, staff writers, reporters and others regarding revisions to copy
  • Plan layout or format of copy according to printed space
  • Plan and coordinate activities of staff and ensure deadlines are met
  • Plan coverage of upcoming events and assign work
  • Negotiate royalties and payments to authors and free-lance writers
  • Specialize in particular subjects or in particular types of publications
  • Check and edit content for accuracy of style
  • Maintain the publication's budget by controlling hiring, promotions and salaries
  • Dummy the magazine (prepare a rough mock-up of the entire magazine) to establish the general layout of articles and advertising
  • Plan the content by suggesting story ideas weeks and months in advance
  • Write articles and editorials
  • Depending on the industry in which they work, editors may spend most of their day alone, with many different people, or with one or two other people. Newspaper editors work in loud and hectic surroundings. Book and freelance editors may work at home because editing manuscripts requires privacy and quiet. Editors often work long, irregular hours with overtime required to meet deadlines. Some newspaper editors work nights in order to get the news into the next day's paper. Freelance editors are more able to set their own hours.

  Workplaces, Employers and Industries  
  • Editors work for publishing firms, magazines, journals, newspapers, radio and television networks and stations, and by companies and government departments that produce publications such as newsletters, handbooks and manuals. Editors may also work on a freelance basis.

  Long Term Career Potential  
Competition for editorial positions is intense and most jobs go to qualified people who already work in the field. Yet do not let this fact discourage you. All editors must start somewhere and getting as much experience and published writing is the best route to take. Editors must be willing to take entry level positions and work their way up to positions of editor-in-chief or production editor.

Newspaper editors will advance to positions with increased supervisory responsibilities. For example, a copy editor may become a section editor or be promoted to an assistant city editor position. Accordingly, the opportunity to work at a larger newspaper is often seen as a promotion. Since editors have such a wide range of experience within the literary and publishing industry, they may choose to work in marketing, public relations or any other communications-oriented field.

  Educational Paths  
Editors are required to have a bachelor's degree in journalism, English, communications or a related arts discipline. This undergraduate education provides potential editors with a solid humanities education, even though it is not necessarily related. Many community colleges and universities offer post-graduate editing and publishing programs, usually ranging from one to two years. A working knowledge of media law, and computer word-processing and page layout programs is also recommended.

Several years of experience in journalism, writing, publishing or a related field is usually required. Most employers value experience and reputation over other credentials, so it is recommended to work on newsletters, magazines or brochures for organizations in your community. Many such groups welcome volunteers. This is valuable experience as you will have the opportunity to look over someone's shoulder and test your aptitude, skills and inclination towards this career.

Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2014-15 Edition, http://www.bls.gov/ooh/
Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Employment Statistics, 2002, http://www.bls.gov/oes/2002/oes_nat.htm

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