You may think that once a writer has put pen to paper and sent their creation off to a publisher, the work is all but done. All that’s left is to print their work in a book or magazine, and—voilà!—it’s in the hands of the reader. Think again. There’s actually a lengthy editing process that comes first, and that work is done by one of the most important people in the copy production process: the copy editor. In this post, we’ll talk you through what it looks like to have work copy edited, how to copy edit your own or others’ work, and the types of jobs that you could get if you’re interested in a career in copy editing.

What Is Copy Editing?

First, let’s break down exactly what copy editing is. A copy edit is the process in which a piece of written text is reviewed for mistakes. It’s the stage where the writing is tightened up and polished ahead of publication. 

At this point, we need to establish the difference between a copy editor and proofreader, since they’re often mistaken for the same job. While copy editing is about finding all of those spelling, grammar, punctuation, and general fact errors, proofreading is the final step in the process. 

Essentially, the proofreader catches the things that the copy editor might have missed. They don’t look for content errors—only simple blunders like typos or layout issues in the publishing proof. They’re the last line of defense before the copy edited words go out into the big wide world.

How to Be a Copy Editor

You don’t need a degree in editing to land a copy editing job, but there are a few skills that will come in handy.

Having a high level of attention to detail is obviously one of the most necessary traits, but good judgement and interpersonal skills shouldn’t be overlooked. You’ll need to be able to determine what can stay and what should be cut from a piece and communicate to a publisher or writer why you’ve changed something in the copy. 

Writing skills of your own are also important, as you’ll need to have a good grasp of grammar, punctuation, spelling, and syntax. There are certifications that you can take to boost your resume, but having plenty of experience in how to copy edit by working for magazines, newspapers, or online publications will help you to find interesting and varied copy editing jobs.

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Copy Editing Jobs

Almost every company in the world creates its own content these days. Copy editors can work on polishing text for websites, corporate reports, books, magazines, or even scripts. 

In-House Copy Editing

Most large media outlets like magazines and newspapers will have a team of salaried employees whose sole responsibility is copy editing. They’ll continually review articles as they come in from both the internal writing team and any freelancers before passing them onto the section editor for inclusion in the publication.

Remote Copy Editing

Remote jobs can now be found in both full-time salaried and contractor-based positions in all kinds of industries. In most cases, you only need a computer (and maybe a printer if you prefer to edit off-screen), so you can work remotely from anywhere in the world. 

Freelance Copy Editing

Not all content producers need a permanent staff member on hand for their editing needs. In these cases, companies will often hire freelance copy editors to work on a single project. Freelance copy editing is an excellent side hustle opportunity for college students looking to break into the industry or people who are interested in pursuing self-employment

Edit Your Way to Your Dream Career

If you have an eagle eye for grammatical errors or spelling mistakes, a career in editing could be for you. 

Start practicing—whether that’s editing your own work or choosing a random article online or in your local newspaper—and you’re on your way to building a thriving career that makes the most of your attention to detail.

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Written by:

Holly Landis