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Job Description of a Copy Editor

Growth Trends for Related Jobs

If you scroll through your social media accounts and cringe at your friends’ poor grammar and spelling or you take a great deal of pleasure in finding errors in printed materials, a career as a copy editor might be ideal for you. A perfectionist’s dream job, copy editing involves putting your impeccable grammatical skills and eye for detail to work making sure that nothing is published with errors. If you are organized, good with deadlines, and able to identify a misused comma at 20 paces, this is the job for you.

Copy Editor Job Description

Copy editors review the final drafts of articles, books and other publications to ensure they are error-free and readable. They review and correct grammar, punctuation and spelling, as well as the readability and clarity of every sentence. A copy editor also reviews for style, making changes and corrections when necessary so the piece aligns with editorial policy. Depending on the publication, the copy editor may also be responsible for fact-checking, verifying facts and figures, and confirming sources. Some copy editors are charged with designing page layouts.

Education Requirements for Copy Editors

Although most copy editors have at least a bachelor’s degree in English, journalism or another related subject, an eye for detail and a firm grasp of the English language are the primary qualifications for the job. It is possible to earn certifications in copy editing, but employers are mostly concerned with your knowledge of grammar and editorial styles such as Associated Press and Chicago styles and your commitment to producing perfect, error-free copy. Established copy editors often hone their skills via training and workshops offered by organizations such as the American Copy Editors Society.

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Copy Editor Role in the Publishing Industry

Copy editors work in a variety of settings, including publishing houses, newspapers, magazines and online publications. Businesses that produce a large amount of written material also employ in-house copy editors. Copy editors in advertising and marketing agencies edit printed and online material for clients. Financial services organizations that produce contracts and other collateral are top employers of copy editors. Some copy editors work as freelancers on a project or contract basis, taking on multiple clients at a time.

Copy Editor Salary

As of 2017, the median copy editor salary was $58,770. Half of all copy editors earned more than this, and half earned less. The lowest 10 percent of copy editors earned less than $30,380, while the top 10 percent earned more than $114,000 per year. The highest paid editors are those working in the financial services sector. Among the lowest paid editors are those in the newspaper, periodical, book and directory publishing sectors.

Job Growth Trends

Growth in this field is expected to be slow or nonexistent in the next decade, due in large part to changes in the publishing industry and pressures from online publications on traditional print media. The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects a 1 percent decline in the number of jobs in this field. Combined with the high level of interest in copy editing jobs, competition is likely to be fierce in the coming years.

About the Author

An adjunct instructor at Central Maine Community College, Kristen Hamlin is also a freelance writer and editor, specializing in careers, business, education, and lifestyle topics. The author of Graduate! Everything You Need to Succeed After College (Capital Books), which covers everything from career and financial advice to furnishing your first apartment, her work has also appeared in Young Money, Lewiston Auburn Magazine, USA Today, and a variety of online outlets. She's also been quoted as a career expert in many newspapers and magazines, including Cosmopolitan and Parade. She has a B.A. in Communication from Stonehill College, and a Master of Liberal Studies in Creative Writing from the University of Denver.

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