How To Become a Copy Editor: Qualifications and Best Practices

To become a copy editor, use these steps as a guide to start your career:
  1. Pursue a college degree. …
  2. Read and write regularly. …
  3. Explore different specialties. …
  4. Learn various style guides. …
  5. Build a portfolio through freelance. …
  6. Gain certifications. …
  7. Build a polished resume. …
  8. Market yourself.

You will first need a high school diploma or its equivalent to work as a copy editor. A bachelor’s degree in journalism, English, or a related field is necessary for some jobs, but some copy editor positions only call for an associate’s degree or on-the-job training. To ensure you have the abilities and qualifications necessary to carry out the duties of this career, you will typically take an editing exam as part of the hiring process. You must either pass a national certification exam or finish a university certificate program to become a certified copy editor.


What does a copy editor do?

Copy editors examine written content for both organization and style. They add commas and correct typos themselves, among other minor edits. Copy editors provide detailed feedback for more significant issues like organization, focus, or tone so that the original author can make significant corrections. Additionally, copy editors may cut down on the word count of a piece of writing by deleting sections of it or by rewriting some of the sentences to make the ideas flow better. Some of the other duties of a copy editor include:

Copy editors can work with any kind of writing. They are capable of editing emails, manuscripts, job descriptions, news articles, and even internal documents. Some copy editors may focus on a technical area where their work involves more research.

What is a copy editor?

Copy editors are in charge of proofreading various types of text to make sure it complies with fundamental standards for grammar, spelling, style, readability, voice, and other elements. They are responsible for upholding a high standard of quality for all writing produced by an organization and ensuring that written content effectively conveys a message.

To standardize written content and complete deliverables on time, they work together with writers, illustrators, and publishers. Copy editors can work as independent editors or as a part of an internal editing team.

Average salary for a copy editor

Use these steps as a manual to launch your career as a copy editor:

1. Pursue a college degree

To ensure that the copy editors they hire are knowledgeable about grammar conventions and written communication, employers frequently look for copy editors who have degrees in English or a related field. An associate’s degree or comparable work experience may also be accepted by some employers, but a bachelor’s degree is typically required for copy editing positions. Choose electives and courses that will improve your technical writing and editing abilities, such as:

2. Read and write regularly

The best way to improve your copy editing abilities is to read and write on a regular basis. Read the content you want to edit to become familiar with industry best practices and spot typical flow and readability problems. To adopt an editor’s mindset, take notes on the changes you would make to the work you read.

Even though you won’t be writing content by yourself as a copy editor, doing so can still improve your editing skills. Writing exercises can help you gain understanding of the writing process, enabling you to provide better advice and more beneficial edits.

3. Explore different specialties

If you enjoy working with a particular style of writing in particular, you might want to pursue that niche. Internships in editing and proofreading are available in a variety of fields; apply to see which ones best match your skills and professional objectives.

4. Learn various style guides

Before applying for copy editing positions, spend some time studying popular style guides. Although each company or client may have their own distinctive style guides, they frequently incorporate aspects of the well-known academic style guides like APA, MLA, Chicago, and Turabian.

Employers frequently demand copy editors to be experts in these style manuals and be able to quickly change punctuation and formatting without consulting a guide. This is particularly important if you want to copy edit any kind of technical or scientific writing.

To practice using the style manuals that are most frequently used in your chosen specialty, consider using flashcards or workbooks. You might want to purchase a copy of the official style manuals and check out any updated editions as they become available.

5. Build a portfolio through freelance

To hone your skills and build an editing portfolio, look for small freelance editing jobs. You can demonstrate the precise impact you could have on a client’s writing projects by developing an editing portfolio.

Save a before-and-after copy of these assignments or scan documents to show your annotations as proof of your editing process. You can demonstrate your understanding of common copy editing notation and your capacity to streamline and enhance subpar content in your portfolio.

6. Gain certifications

Numerous institutions provide certificates in writing, copy editing, and other subjects. Having a certification can help you stand out from the competition and increase your knowledge of the industry. You can also enroll in continuing education programs and earn credentials in related industries like publishing or marketing.

Consider joining a professional copy editing organization, such as the Editorial Freelancers Association or the Society for Editing, also known as the American Copy Editors Society, while pursuing official certification. Throughout your editing career, professional associations may assist you in getting training, attending workshops, and developing your skills.

7. Build a polished resume

Your resume and cover letter should be error-free if you’re trying to become a copy editor. Your written submissions must be accurate grammatically and useful to your application. Remove any information that is redundant or irrelevant, and use powerful verbs and adjectives to show off your writing skills. Consistent spacing and punctuation demonstrate that you are familiar with formatting guidelines and can use them in your own work.

8. Market yourself

Marketing your professional abilities can make you stand out as a top candidate for copy editing positions whether you want to work independently or for an organization. Think about developing a personal website to highlight your professional abilities or utilizing social media to connect with other writers and publishing industry professionals.

Contact companies and clients who create the kind of content you want to edit, and describe the benefits you would provide to their writing process. You can search for websites with errors in writing and editing and provide an editing sample to demonstrate how you could enhance their online presence.

9. Complete editing tests

You must take an editing test as part of the application process for many copy editing jobs. You’ll have a short amount of time to read a style manual and use it on a piece of writing. Be meticulous about identifying and fixing as many errors as you can because these test pieces are frequently purposefully filled with mistakes.

Frequently asked questions about copy editing

Review the following responses to frequently asked questions about copy editing if you’re considering this career path:

Where do copy editors work?

Most magazines, newspapers, marketing agencies, publishing houses, and public relations firms employ copy editors. Any company that creates written content might require a copy editor.

What is the work environment for a copy editor?

The majority of copy editors work in an office setting and during regular business hours. To speed up turnaround and facilitate the editing process, they might collaborate in the same space as writers. Freelance copy editors can set their own schedules and work from home as long as they meet deadlines for clients.

What should a copy editor major in?

A variety of writing-related majors, including journalism, literature, communications, linguistics, creative writing, and marketing, are available for copy editors.

What is the difference between a proofreader and a copy editor?

While proofreading is a part of what copy editors do, there are several other duties that fall under this category. While copy editors rework the text as a whole to improve the style and focus of the piece, proofreaders only focused on technical errors.

Jobs similar to copy editors

There are numerous positions you could look into if copy editing is something you’re interested in. The following ten positions are comparable to those of copy editors:


What qualifications do you need to be a copy editor?

You’ll need:
  • knowledge of English language.
  • excellent written communication skills.
  • knowledge of media production and communication.
  • to be thorough and pay attention to detail.
  • the ability to work well with others.
  • excellent verbal communication skills.
  • the ability to accept criticism and work well under pressure.

How much does a copy editor make?

Copy Editor salary in India ranges between ₹ 1. 3 Lakhs to ₹ 6. 5 Lakhs with an average annual salary of ₹ 3. 0 Lakhs.

Is a copy editor a good career?

It’s a fantastic and in-demand profession. “I had so many people tell me that I could never make a living as an editor, which surprised me. Don’t listen to naysayers. It’s a great and in-demand career!”.

Do you need to be certified to be a copy editor?

The short answer is no, a copy editing certificate won’t be required to work as a copy editor (it’s also sometimes written as copyediting).

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