Interested in a Career as a Copyeditor? Read REAL Advice From Copyeditors

While obtaining an English degree can certainly set you on the right path to becoming a copyeditor, it doesn't necessarily mean you're ready to jump in head first to a full-time copyediting job! So what can you do to prepare? 

Below, copyeditors with years of hard-earned experience share their advice for how to begin your career in copyediting, where to turn for information, important books to read, and more! 

Are you a professional copyeditor? Contribute to this article by sharing your advice for aspiring copyeditors HERE


$12.85
By Carol Fisher Saller

Carol Saller - Editor - 30 years of experience

What did you do to prepare for a career as a copyeditor?

I stumbled into copyediting and was trained on the job. But I did read a lot of novels. In school I was a classics major (Latin and Greek, French, Italian).

Are there any books you recommend for aspiring copyeditors?

Read my book! The Subversive Copy Editor.

What do you wish a professional copyeditor had told you before your career began?

Be kind and flexible, not a stickler; keep up with language and writing news and trends.

Any other advice for up-and-coming copyeditors?

Get a big fat style manual and start reading. If you can't put it down, you might have a wonderful career in copyediting.

“Get a big fat style manual and start reading. If you can’t put it down, you might have a wonderful career in copyediting.”
— Carol Saller

Tara Moeller - Technical Editor (I copy edit technical documents) - 15 years of experience

What did you do to prepare for a career as a copyeditor?

Bachelor in English plus 6 years in the USN.

Are there any books you recommend for aspiring copyeditors?

All you can get your hands on. I have a whole bookshelf full. They all have good nuggets of wisdom.

What do you wish a professional copyeditor had told you before your career began?

That folks won't like what you do. They will take it personal.

Any other advice for up-and-coming copyeditors?

Be firm but flexible. Your bosses will always want some things edited "their way" vice "the guide." Feel free to let them, just hold them to it on all docs.


$11.90
By David Foster Wallace

Brian Colella - Lead copy editor - 5 years of experience

What did you do to prepare for a career as a copyeditor?

Editing certificate, editorial internship.

Are there any books you recommend for aspiring copyeditors?

Subversive Copy Editor, Chicago Manual, David Foster Wallace.

Any other advice for up-and-coming copyeditors?

Definitely look for an official program such as a certification, or find things you can do with no barrier to entry (Distributed Proofreaders is one option).


$38.07
University Of Chicago Press

Sonnet Fitzgerald - Freelance Editor - 4 years of experience

What did you do to prepare for a career as a copyeditor?

My degree is in Spanish, which sounds illogical for editing. But writing papers in a second language really helped me learn how to scan a document for grammatical errors. I read style guides and take classes from the EFA.

Are there any books you recommend for aspiring copyeditors?

If you'll be editing fiction, the CMOS.

What do you wish a professional copyeditor had told you before your career began?

Find a niche. Don't just say you offer editing—do business editing or academic editing or medical editing or poetry editing. You'll have a much easier time of it.

Any other advice for up-and-coming copyeditors?

I had so many people (surprisingly, to me) tell me I could never make a living as an editor. Don't listen to naysayers. It's a great and in-demand career!

“I had so many people (surprisingly, to me) tell me I could never make a living as an editor. Don’t listen to naysayers. It’s a great and in-demand career!”
— Sonnet Fitzgerald

$17.48
By Janet Kestin, Nancy Vonk

Lauren Pope - Social Media Marketing Coordinator / Copy Writer / Freelance Copy Editor - 2 years of experience

What did you do to prepare for a career as a copyeditor?

I took internships in editing offered by my university for a year and once I graduated. Once I graduated, I registered with Booktrope for freelance work.

Are there any books you recommend for aspiring copyeditors?

Specifically for women in business in general I love Darling, You Can't Do Both (And Other Noise to Ignore on Your Way Up. It's about women in business and I feel like the advice in it applies to any sort of job you take. I also highly recommend having an AP Stylebook on hand at all times at your desk.

What do you wish a professional copyeditor had told you before your career began?

Learn AP Style. I dealt only in MLA during my undergrad and the working world deals in AP style. I had to play catch up and fake it for a long time.

Any other advice for up-and-coming copyeditors?

I got started by tutoring English at my campus career center and from there I was getting paid $20 a paper to edit for people through the career center. Your university offers internships and programs that will hone your skills and bolster your resume, you just need to look. Ask your favorite English professor or seek out your adviser and let them know. My biggest mistake was waiting until I was a junior in college to ask any real questions. Capture the moment now and you'll thank yourself later.


$11.40
By The Modern Language Association of America
$12.80
By The Associated Press
$40.21
By JAMA & Archives Journals

Victoria Allen - Writing consultant and freelance copy editor - 10+ years in business

What did you do to prepare for a career as a copyeditor?

I have a bachelor's degree in English, with a literature concentration. I started as a copy desk assistant and worked my way up. Knowledge of the style books and gramnar, as well as expertise, make the difference in copy editing.

Are there any books you recommend for aspiring copyeditors?

Read up on the style guides: AP, APA, Chicago, AMA, MLA

What do you wish a professional copyeditor had told you before your career began?

Know what you are worth and fight for what you are worth as a good editor.

Any other advice for up-and-coming copyeditors?

Gain experience every chance you get to gain experience. Diversify your experience as well: news editing, technical editing, book editing, and medical editing all require variations of the skill, so become familiar with more than one area to stay marketable.

“Gain experience every chance you get to gain experience. Diversify your experience as well: news editing, technical editing, book editing, and medical editing all require variations of the skill, so become familiar with more than one area to stay marketable.”
— Victoria Allen

Martha Humphries - Freelance - 25 years in business

What did you do to prepare for a career as a copyeditor?

Worked as a proofreader and learned from my superiors. Read and studied the Chicago Manual of Style.

What do you wish a professional copyeditor had told you before your career began?

Learn your craft and stick to your guns.


Samantha Enslen: President & Owner of Dragonfly Editorial

Samantha Enslen: President & Owner of Dragonfly Editorial

Brittany Olsen: Editor

Brittany Olsen: Editor

John Essex: Owner, Editor at Peak Medical Editing, LLC

John Essex: Owner, Editor at Peak Medical Editing, LLC

Posted on July 3, 2016 and filed under Articles, Editing, Featured Articles.