Copy editors play a crucial role in preparing writing for the public. Since many very creative and effective writers make grammatical and legal mistakes with their writing (such as copyright infringement) and since some writers experience blindness to their writing, copy editors can increase the quality of the final copy. But finding a copy editor can be challenging and becoming a copy editor is even more challenging.
Copy editors take writing and alter it in order for the writing to conform to the grammatical standards of a particular language, dialect or lingo. Copy editors also verify the accuracy of the writing they are editing and can even offer suggestions for revision. Though copy editing sometimes involves some writing, it is a discipline in its own right.
Both copy editors and copy editor employers should be aware of the different contracts that copy editors can have with clients. Copy editors are specifically editors who edit works intended for printing or publication. Copy editors can be hired freelance for individual projects or they can be staffed full-time. Copy editors can be paid per editing job, per word, hourly or salary. Some copy editors work within the office of the company they work for while others work at home and deliver finished work through mail or email.
Copy editing jobs can be advertised through a variety of mediums. Newspaper ads are the more traditional way of advertising jobs. There are copyediting services, such as ACE Copyediting. which have a whole staff of editors for hire. There are employment websites like Monster where copy editors can post their resumes and where businesses can advertise jobs. There are also online sites, such as Get a Freelancer, that allow buyers to post copy editing jobs that they need completed.
When choosing a copy editor you will ideally want an editor with experience and an editor who can thoroughly understand the style guidelines put forth by the publisher. But due to the law of supply and demand, if editors are in short supply and if the client cannot afford to pay the copy editor very much, the client should consider lowering the requirements for entry. One way around this is to allow a copy editor to pass a copy editing test instead of having a background in copy editing for other clients.
Getting a copy editing job can be difficult because most copy editing jobs expect copy editors to have experience. Aspiring copy editors might be able to find low-paying copy editing jobs that do not require experience. These are good jobs to take simply to build up work experience. Copy editors should also consider copy editing for free simply to build up experience. Consider editing for a small newspaper or newsletter. Also consider applying as an editorial assistant. Oftentimes editorial assistants do not actually edit, but instead carry out grunt work for the editor. But editorial assistants can eventually move up to becoming copy editors. Finally, there are some copy editing jobs that do not require experience and instead require that a copy editing test be passed before becoming a copy editor.
After reading a piece of writing, ask yourself if the goals of the writing are clear. Look for more complicated words and sentence structure and replace them with simpler words and sentence structure without changing the meaning of the sentence. Review the style guideline first thing everyday before starting copy editing. If you feel that a sentence is plagiarized or in violation of a law, check with your senior editor. If you are a head editor, ask a friend who is also an editor. When in doubt, ask the writer to revise. Finally, if the writing is important enough, consider finding a legal consultant who specializes in this area. Only do this if the expected revenue of the piece of writing justifies the hiring of a legal consultant.