Learning in a Community of Practice: the Editors’ Circle

At Write to the Point we are interested in constantly improving our own practices as editors, writers, writing tutors and learning designers. Sure, we have done courses and got the certificates, and we learn everyday in our work and the interaction and feedback we get from clients. However, courses and learning on the job have their limitations. A traditional course often focuses on delivering large amounts of generic information, so participants come away with a lot of information, which is soon forgotten or is difficult to put into context. Learning on the job can be very effective, but we work in a profession where hectic deadlines are the norm and so rarely have time to consolidate the learning or engage in meaningful reflection.

Over the past year or so, we have been experimenting with a different type of learning, which isn’t as formal as attending a course or as informal as learning on the job. We started a Community of Practice for Editors to stimulate and continue our learning. A Community of Practice (CoP) is a recognised form of learning, where a group of professionals come together to share their knowledge and skills around a particular field. CoPs enable established professionals to keep up to date with practices of the field, get feedback from other knowledgeable professionals and inculcate others into the practice through the mentoring and support of novices.

A visual representation of a CoP from this website

Our Community of Practice, called the Editors’ Circle, comprises about 12 individuals who meet every four to six weeks to discuss a topic or participate in an activity that enables members to learn something new, deepen their understanding or share their expertise. Our sessions start with members giving an update on what’s been happening since the previous meeting and sharing what work they are busy with. The practical learning session that follows may involve everyone doing editing exercises and giving feedback to each other, someone demonstrating how to create wireframes for web pages, or  useful tips for working more efficiently. One such session resulted in the Top ten tips for rookie editors post.

A CoP is more than just a chance to get together, although networking is an important aspect of a CoP, especially for freelance editors who often work alone and from home. To manage and maintain a CoP requires some organisation and effort in planning and developing activities, but the learning and benefits for all members mean that such efforts are well worth it. It is a route that established organisations or groups of independent professionals might consider.

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?


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)