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Copy Editor Job Description (2023 Guide)

copy editor job description

Copy editing is a vital step that needs to be taken when publishing content. 

Whether it be a book, an article, or even a blog, the services of a copy editor are always needed. It’s the only way to make sure that a piece of writing is perfect. But what does a copy editor do? What duties do they have to perform? 

Well, my in-depth copy editor job description will tell you everything you’ve ever wanted to know and more!

What Is A Copy Editor?

Copy editors are responsible for checking content after it has been written. They proofread the piece, checking for any mistakes or inaccuracies. They also think about the layout of the copy and make any necessary changes for added clarity.

As well as checking for incorrect information, a copy editor also keeps an eye on grammar. They correct any spelling or syntax errors as well. Overall, the copy editor is responsible for adding finishing touches to the piece, dotting the Is, and crossing the Ts.

Can a writer be a copy editor?

Close up of male hands writing on paper on his office desk.

Can a writer be a copy editor?
Close up of male hands writing on paper on his office desk.

Yes, but there’s a catch. Although many writers try to copy edit their own work, it’s not usually a good idea. A piece of content needs a second pair of eyes to look at it from a distance and get a more well-rounded view. It’s easy to get too close to your work. That makes it difficult to spot mistakes. So, while a writer can be a copy editor for others, they shouldn’t try to do it for their writing.

Why not take a test to see if you’re well-suited to this role? Editingtests.com has a few free samples to get you started. Or, if you’d like a more in-depth assessment, they have paid options you can try too.

What Makes A Good Copy Editor?

What Makes A Good Copy Editor?

While many people think it’s an easy job, that is not the case. There are several qualities a copy editor needs to be successful in this position. It’s not as straightforward as it might first seem.

1 Excellent grammar

First and foremost in the roles and responsibilities of a copy editor is checking grammar. Grammar is of utmost importance when it comes to producing a clear piece of work. After all, there’s a difference between “Let’s eat Grandma!” and “Let’s eat, Grandma!”

The job description will always ask for someone with an in-depth knowledge of grammar. And don’t forget! There are subtle differences between British English and American English grammar, so make sure you know who the target audience is.

Go with the flow…

A good understanding of syntax is incredibly important too. This involves the arrangement and structure of sentences. They should flow naturally without any jarring or clunky sections to help the reader with their understanding.

And similarly, it’s part of the copy editor’s role to consider tone. Is the content covering a lighthearted subject or something more serious? Good copy editors can recognize the difference and make any appropriate adjustments.

2 Communication is key

Communication is key

Copy editors often have to work as part of a team. They must collaborate with the writers, as well as other, more senior editors. That means that effective communication skills are a must. Plus, the content needs to have clarity with no room for misunderstandings. 

So those communication skills are needed here, too. It’s up to the copy editor to ensure that the correct message is being transmitted.

3 Get organized

Most copy editors handle several projects at once. So, taking on this role requires first-rate organizational skills. They need to juggle many different pieces and stick to various deadlines, all while maintaining that perfect eye for detail.

And they need to be self-starters. Copy editing isn’t like other jobs, each project is different, and while some are exciting, others can be monotonous. The editor has to be motivated, driven, and enjoy a challenge.

Do You Need A Degree To Become A Copy Editor?

Do You Need A Degree To Become A Copy Editor?

It helps if you have one. And if it’s in English, journalism, or a related subject, so much the better. Some kind of experience in the publishing industry helps as well. But don’t worry! A degree is not always necessary. Many employers will hire editors with no degree if they can prove they have the skills needed for the job.

How do you learn to be a copy editor?

There are plenty of online courses available to help kickstart your career. Skillshare is an awesome place to look. It has a huge selection of courses taught by working professionals to help you progress in the creative industries.

Read more: Sample Answers to “Tell Me About a Time You Failed”

Copy Editor Job Description – How To Apply

Copy Editor Job Description - How To Apply

OK, so you’ve got the skills and knowledge, and you want to turn them into a career as a copy editor. Great! Now it’s time to start applying for some jobs.

These days, there are plenty of online jobs available in copy editing. A site like jobsforeditors is a great place to start. It allows its staff to work on a freelance basis and covers a wide range of subjects so hopefully, you’ll never get bored!

Guides On Becoming A Copy Editor! 

I’ve found an outstanding selection of handbooks for you, such as The Copyeditor’s Handbook: A Guide for Book Publishing and Corporate Communications, as well as Copy-Editing: The Cambridge Handbook for Editors, Authors and Publishers, and the Butcher’s Copy-editing: The Cambridge Handbook for Editors, Copy-editors and Proofreaders for better insight.

I also recommend using The Freelance Editor’s Handbook: A Complete Guide to Making Your Business Thrive, the Copyediting and Proofreading For DummiesWhat Editors Do: The Art, Craft, and Business of Book Editing, and The Copyeditor’s Handbook and Workbook: The Complete Set, all available online in 2023.

Alternatively, you can check out my Companies That Hire For Freelance Proofreading Jobs, as well as my Flexible Jobs That Let You Set Your Own Hours if you’re looking to work from home. Also, why not learn to stay productive with The Ultimate Guide To Remote Work: 900 Tips, Strategies and Insights, and Remote Work Revolution: Succeeding from Anywhere.

Copy Editor Job Description – Final Thoughts

If you’re thorough, meticulous, and have a good eye for detail, copy editing could be the perfect career. 

Sure, it can get a little dull at times, but for every boring academic paper, there’s also a fascinating article to edit. It’s a great way to use your precise, exacting, detail-oriented skills while learning something new (and making some decent money!)

Just remember; it’s not for everyone. A love of reading and writing alone isn’t enough. A good copy editor must have the knowledge and ability to do the job to an incredibly high standard.

So, happy copy editing, folks!

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