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Career Story: Freelance Editor

Freelance Editor

Job Title: Freelance Editor

Type of Company: I edit written pieces for publishing houses and individuals

Education: Attended Wells College, Farmingdale Junior College •• University of Minnesota, no degree

Previous Experience: I started as a receptionist at a small publishing house, then became a typesetter for another firm, which later promoted me to copy editor/assistant managing editor. After that I got a job as production editor for a new publication, and from there I moved to production associate at a major international magazine. I then took some years off to travel, and after coming back to the US I did odd jobs, eventually working at a major university in publishing, where I stayed for 21 years before leaving to work freelance.

Job Tasks: I work as a freelance copy editor. That means that people send me a final draft of their written work--a thesis, book chapter, journal article, or something else--and I make it better. I read the piece to make sure the spelling and grammar are correct, but I also make sure their story or argument is presented in clear language that any reader would understand, and that the author has presented it in a logical sequence. I also cut out the extra words that most writers seem to use when writing, and I simplify the language they use--saying "what happened" rather than "what transpired" or "they had" rather than "they possessed." Sometimes an article has citations of sources they used to write their paper, and I also make sure these have all the necessary information and are done correctly.

Best and Worst Parts of the Job: The best part is to help an author's work read really well, to help them get across an idea that is important to them better than they can do it themselves.

The worst part, now that I work as a freelance editor, is working a lot on the computer and not having a team to work with.

Job Tips: Read a lot, notice what kind of writing really grabs you and why. Notice mistakes in what you read, especially the newspaper or online. Take a job, any job, in the publishing industry, perhaps even an internship, so you can learn how the trade works, maybe get a little hands-on experience editing. Help your friends improve their writing, maybe even let them help you improve yours. It's more important to have a good feel for what reads well than to know every rule of grammar. Use a dictionary and get familiar with the Chicago Manual of Style.

Additional Thoughts: If you love words and prefer reading to writing, editing might be a good choice for you.

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