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Editing in the Modern Era

A day in the life of a journal editor.

Click on the image to be redirected to a YouTube video describing a day in the life of a journal editor. The rest of the post describes the varying roles that editors, copy editors, and proofreaders perform at different agencies or publication houses.

Editors and authors need one another. Watch Hollywood’s rendition of that complex relationship as a reinforcement of the core message. But the days of one editor patiently extracting the essence out of one author’s literary creation are over. Editorial roles have expanded to meet the growing demand of readers to access content-on-demand and engage with the information in different ways. Indie authors can find helpful tips about the roles of editors in publication houses from The Helpful Writer.

Editors are also central players in the dissemination of research findings in several different ways through a range of digitally connected devices. The Council of Science Editors has clearly outlined the roles and responsibilities of journal editors towards authors. Like editors in other communications arenas, they rely on effective document management, editing tools for digital/print media (mainly, Microsoft Office/Adobe Creative Cloud software), a pen, paper, a dictionary, style guides, patience, and a sense of humor. Generally, the role of an editor extends beyond checking grammatical and punctuation errors in a document. The editor can also revise the language in the document to improve the clarity and flow of a story. However, this task is one that requires diplomacy, even when the editor is also an expert in the author’s chosen topic.

Unlike working at a journal, an editor within a marketing agency may have to contend with client requirements that go beyond preparing a manuscript in AMA style, formatting of images/figures at a high resolution, and checking for copyright issues. Client teams are usually comprised of authors, funders, and other experts. The editor may be required to collate client and in-house guidelines about brand assets such as logos, images, color palettes, and typography schemes. Platforms such as Frontify can be used to generate tailored style guides that could be used by the editor and other members of the creative team. Graphic designers, medical illustrators, and website developers are some of the creatives that will be working with the editor to publish client outputs in different formats, including interactive media.

The copy editor is a valuable ally of the editor. I have followed the guidelines of the AP Style Book for describing copy editors, but others have used copyeditor (see The Copyeditor’s Handbook on Amazon). Tellingly, the American Copy Editors Society (ACES) uses two words. Corey Wainwright has described the difference between this professional and an editor in her Hubspot post. Copy editors are ubiquitous in disciplines relying on communication. These individuals may also rewrite sections of the document in accordance with regulatory guidelines. They also serve as a backup to the editor to check for plagiarism. Apart from an offering a certificate on the nuts and bolts of the profession, ACES also has editing boot camps and other resources. Anyone interested in entering the field, can also read Erin Hogg’s post on copy editing tips.

Proofreading involves looking for minor changes and inconsistencies in the layout of the final product. Grammarly has a nice article on What’s the Difference Between Copy Editing and Proofreading?

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