Learn What Makes a Great Editor by Reverse Engineering This Blog Post

Like writing, professional editing is a broad term that actually encompasses many different types of work. However, editing is different in that it’s essentially invisible. A well-edited blog post, book, or other document allows the writer’s strengths to shine – not draw attention to the editing itself. Since great editing is so hard to identify, how can English majors learn how to become a good editor?

Reverse Engineering Your Way to Job Success

In mechanical or electrical engineering, the term “reverse engineering” refers to taking a finished product (usually a competitor’s) and working backwards to figure how how it was made. If you’ve seen AMC’s Halt and Catch Fire, this may be familiar. The protagonists, computer engineers working in 1980’s Austin, take apart a competitor’s PC and carefully analyze it to reverse engineer the BIOS.

As aspiring editors, we can do the same thing (but in a much less technical way). By learning what writers and other professionals need in an editor, we can learn what we need to be as editors.

(The whole thing is very similar to my approach in the 30 Day Plan for Getting Job Ready – you can download it in the Free Member Library.)

“Okay,” you may be thinking, “so how do we learn what writers and other professionals want in their editors?”

Freelance writer and blogger Carol Tice has this covered. In a recent post on Make a Living Writing, Carol outlines six things writers should expect from editors. For example, writers should find an editor in their niche:

A good editor understands the market of the material she is working with. If you’re going to trust someone to make changes to your book, especially for developmental editing, make sure she is experienced in your niche.

So, to apply some reverse engineering, editors need to understand the material writers are working with and be experienced in a niche. That means getting practice editing whatever type of document you’d like to edit professionally.

Getting this experience is the tricky part. To be honest, I’m not the biggest expert on learning how to be an editor. (I’m a writer, and while I rely on editors to make my work great, I don’t edit professionally myself.)

A simple Google search delivers lots of good resources to start editing. This article from Sell Out Your Soul spells out some good ideas, like using eLance for low-paying jobs that earn experience.

Here are some other ideas:

  • Join a forum or Facebook group for writers and volunteer your editing experience in exchange for testimonials
  • Contact local businesses (or marketing agencies) and offer to edit their blog posts or web content
  • Volunteer on-campus with campus publications, such as newspapers or magazines

I also recommend Googling “how to get editing experience” and going from there. And if you find something you think I should share, please email it to matt@englishmajorsguide.com. I’d love to see it.

Source: Make a Living Writing


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