10 top tips for rookie editors


At a recent Editors’ Circle meeting, we discussed what advice we would give to a rookie editor starting out as a freelancer. These were the top ten tips:


  1. From Day 1 start your own style sheet and discuss your style decisions with other editors.
  2. Clients often don’t know what editing means, or the process involved, so be clear about what level of editing you are offering and where you fit in to the process. If necessary, ask another editor to explain the publishing industry to you.
  3. If you can, find a mentor especially for the first couple of jobs. Or ask an experienced editor for some advice and feedback.
  4. Learn how to accept feedback and take all criticism as constructive criticism.
  5. Learn to let go – do a thorough edit but don’t spend unnecessary time.
  6. Develop a network and be brave enough to ask people for work. Pick up that phone and cold call publishers. Offer to do a short edit/proofread for free as a way to get your foot in the door.
  7. Keep a sense of humour and don’t become a wingeing grammarian.
  8. Communicate with your client! If running late, tell the client and if necessary send off the work done so far, even if unfinished.
  9. Learn to manage your time and be self-disciplined. Get into a routine that works for you. Don’t allow people to ‘pop in’ unannounced just because you are working from home.
  10. Don’t be afraid to ask for money upfront, e.g. deposit of 30% to 50% or part payments, depending on the length of the project.

What tips would you give a rookie editor?


A picture paints a thousand words

While it is indeed true that a picture paints a thousand words, can all information be represented graphically?

What are infographics?

Information graphics (or infographics) portray visually the important information and are supposed to be aesthetically pleasing. A good infographic is able to communicate facts and complex relationships. I also think that an infographic should encourage people to read the accompanying text, which is why I liked this infographic from the White House (although the author of the blog disagrees, saying there’s “way too much text”).

Our latest project involving infographics

I think that much depends on your readers and the focus of the publication, as well as the budget.

For instance, I recently completed a publication entitled Secondary Cities: the start of a conversation for SA Cities Network. The brief was to produce an easy-to-read, visually pleasing publication suitable for a number of audiences: the general public, national policy-makers, municipalities, academics and NGOs. The base document was a lengthy research paper that (in my view) would only interest academics.

I think the final product works well. Not all the information is displayed as infographics — the city comparisons (pages 35—40) are just prettified tables. The real challenge was fitting so much city data onto one page, but we managed it (thanks in no small part to the designer we worked with). In the end, each profile tells a story of the city’s evolution over the past 10 years.


What do you think?

PS For me, when I hear the phrase “A picture paints a thousand words”, I think of that song by Bread, If. (Enjoy!)

Why use a copy-editor?

People often ask me … what exactly do you do? Why would I use your editing services? I know how to write and there’s always Microsoft’s spellcheck.

My reply is simple: editing is not just about correct spelling and acceptable grammar. It’s about consistency and finding the ‘voice’ that is appropriate for your readers. It’s about communicating the right message in an effective way to your audience.

Publishing houses are not the only organisations that need editorial services. Companies, small and large, government departments, universities, non-governmental organisations as well as aspiring authors can benefit from the services of an editor.

Here are three good reasons why you should use an editor:

1. Value. Mistakes and inconsistency can be costly. An editor helps you get it right first time, on time and within budget.

2. Clear communications. Unclear communications can confuse your audience. An editor makes sure your communications are clear, concise and correct.

3. Image. Misspellings and clumsy grammar are not good for your image. Computer programs can’t replace a good editor who will help you find the right tone and style.

(Adapted from marketing material I developed for the Professional Editors’ Group)