Like all other professionals, editors need training. While you may be great at grammar and have always been able to spot typos from afar, the editing process involves a lot more than simply correcting grammar and spelling mistakes (although this is an essential part of it!). In fact, I would argue that the majority of the work I do consists of other things:
- I strengthen a text’s message and improve its clarity, flow, and coherence by changing words, phrases, and overly long sentences (depending on my mandate of course);
- I improve a text’s accuracy by fact-checking names, dates, and titles;
- I clarify a text’s structure by inserting and/or formatting headings to create a clear outline;
- I ensure that citations and references are formatted correctly, that sources have been properly cited, and that any potential ethical or legal issues are flagged;
- I ensure that author guidelines, spelling preferences, and style guides are applied consistently and correctly.
All this requires training because how does one, for example, improve a text’s clarity? This is a vague requirement that is made a lot more concrete with examples and exercises, of which I’ve had plenty in the past years. Since starting my editing training, I have completed three out of the five courses of Queen’s University’s Professional Editing Standards program (“Fundamentals of Editing Standards,” “Copyediting Standards I,” and “Copyediting Standards II”) and one SfEP course (“Brush Up Your Grammar“). I’m planning to take the remaining two Queen’s courses (“Proofreading Standards” and “Structural Editing Standards”) next year in order to obtain the certificate.
This is not where it ends, of course; any professional editor will engage in lifelong learning in order to stay up to date and hone their skills. I’m definitely planning to take more advanced copyediting and grammar courses and sharpen my MS Word skills in the future (especially concerning macros and wildcards).
For now, I’d like to share a few things that I have learned from my editing courses, thanks to fantastic instructors and colleagues. Of course, I learned much, much more than I can convey in one blog post, but I hope the selection below gives an idea (warning: long post!).