If you have a keen eye and spot small errors in just about anything you read, copy editing might be the right career choice for you. Often misconstrued with a proofreader, the copy editor job description has a bit more meat to it. If you’re still wondering, well, “What is a copy editor?” we can help. Skilled copy editors require you to yes, spot mistakes, but also stick to a style guide and check the text for factual accuracy. If you think you have what it takes to become a copy editor (and want to explore some jobs for copy editors ASAP), read on to learn more. 

What Is Copy Editing?

Copy editing is defined as revising written material to improve readability and style while fixing grammatical and spelling errors. It’s not proofreading, although the two functions are mildly related. Proofreading focuses on ensuring the final piece of content is error-free—but doesn’t look at edits larger than typos or grammatical errors.

Copy Editor vs. Copyeditor

Funnily enough, there are technically two ways to spell copy editor. While the AP Stylebook and Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary say it is copy editor—two words— there is no direct evidence that copyeditor—one word— is wrong. For the sake of consistency (you’ll learn all about that in your copy editor training!), let’s go with the two-word spelling.

What Does a Copy Editor Do?

Another debate is the copy editor vs editor one. It can be hard to discern the difference between a copy editor and editor, especially if you’re unfamiliar with the industry. An easy way to think about it is this: All editors look at the accuracy of spelling and grammar, but copy editors focus on the style of writing and ensuring it fits with the publication or brand while editors look at the big picture and how the piece is constructed.

But the copy editor definition is to ensure the content adheres to the chosen style guide, is readable and understandable to the intended audience, and is accurate in spelling and grammar.

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How to Become a Copy Editor

To become a copy editor, you don’t necessarily need a college degree. While many people do complete degrees, there are other avenues to polish and show off your skills like certifications and courses.

Copy Editor Degrees

If a copy editor has a degree, it’s likely to be one in English, communications, journalism, marketing, or creative writing. While each degree is obviously different, they have similar themes and skills that are valuable to an editor like writing, reading, and communication. 

Copy Editor Courses

Higher education degrees aren’t mandatory in order to land a copy editor job. Whether you earn a degree or not, there are various copy editor courses available that will teach you the skills needed to become a copy editor. 

Copy Editor Certification

A copy editor certification is the next step up from a copy editor course and can be completed online from universities like New York University and the University of Chicago and professional associations like the ACES Society of Editing. These certifications vary in scope but typically include classes on grammar, editing, fact-checking, and introductions to the media industry. They tend to take over a year to complete.

Copy Editor Skills

If you’re interested in becoming a copywriter, there are certain must-have skills. You need to be able to spot grammar and spelling mistakes, pay attention to small details, have the ability to concentrate for decent lengths of time, advanced reading and writing skills, and be deadline-driven with solid time management. 

Copy Editor Jobs

To land a copy editor job that you really enjoy, first think about your specific skills, interests, and availability. Copy editor jobs tend to be more flexible than jobs in other industries and there are plenty of opportunities to be either a part-time copy editor or a full-time copy editor (or even a work from home copy editor!), depending on your desires and availability. 

Online Copy Editor Jobs

Since all copy editing is done on a computer, remote copy editor jobs aren’t hard to come by—especially if you’re interested in freelance roles. Copy editors typically have excellent communication skills, so working remotely and keeping the lines of communication open won’t be an issue. However, it doesn’t hurt to talk about any online work or schooling you’ve successfully done in the past to land one of these gigs.

Entry-Level Copy Editor Jobs

As with any entry-level job, it’s important to show your enthusiasm for the industry and position, despite your lack of experience. Include any related work experience on your resume, whether it was paid or unpaid, and any copy editor courses or certifications you completed. 

Part-Time Copy Editor Jobs

A part-time copy editing job can be a great way to supplement your income or dip a toe into the industry. Look for freelance copy editor roles that are either less than 20 hours a week or on an as-needed basis so you can ensure you’ll have the flexibility you need.

Copy Editor Salary

Now let’s get into the good stuff and answer the question: How much money do copy editors make?

Because of the flexibility of the position, copy editor salaries can range widely. Depending on the type of employment you can expect to be paid hourly or annually, or even on a project basis for freelance copy editors.

Average Copy Editor Salary

The average copy editor salary is just over $33,000 per year or roughly $22 per hour.

Senior Copy Editor Salary

A senior copy editor salary is $59,000 per year or just over $25 per hour.

How to Find a Copy Editor Job

A job as a professional copy editor can be a fulfilling, flexible position for anyone who loves reading and writing and has a knack for spotting mistakes. Before you embark on a copy editor career, plan for how much you need to make, the hours you’d like to work, and the skills you may need to brush up on.

Then, start applying for copy editor positions, whether online or in-person, freelance or full-time. And remember, you’re working in the writing industry, so make sure your resume and cover letter show off your skills and attention to detail. 

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Happy editing!

Written by:

Laura Brothers