Copy Editor Job Description: Top Duties and Qualifications

A Copy Editor, or Proofreader, is responsible for reviewing written content such as articles, blog posts, manuals or manuscripts to ensure excellent readability, grammar and punctuation. Their duties include communicating with Writers, Editors and Publishers, reading through content and making notes of odd passages and correcting grammar and punctuation errors.

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Copy Editor Duties and Responsibilities

A Copy Editor’s biggest responsibility is editing and fact-checking content. Some Copy Editors are also responsible for things like assigning work and generating ideas for stories, blogs or articles. Other duties include:

  • Correct grammar, spelling and punctuation errors.
  • Help companies develop style guides to govern how content is created.
  • Arrange page layouts to include written content as well as elements like photos and ads.
  • Train new Writers and Editors about the company’s content creation process.
  • Meet with clients or customers to define content needs and create a content calendar.
  • Fact-check all content.
  • Check content against a style guide, such as AP Style or Chicago Style.

What does a Copy Editor do?

Copy Editors typically work for publishing houses, newspapers, magazines or marketing agencies. They use their attention to detail and their expert knowledge of style guides to contribute to well-written and error-free content. Their job is to make sure that they fact check statements, correct typos and grammatical errors and mark unnecessary or confusing passages for the Writer to revise later on. They may also provide suggestions on how to improve the clarity of a particular passage or statement.

Copy Editor Skills and Qualifications

A mastery of language is the most important skill for a Copy Editor. Copy Editors typically have experience with one or more style guides—in fact, it’s common for a job posting to ask that an Editor have knowledge of a certain style guide. Copy Editors also need to be flexible and able to learn about whatever subject a client needs content for. 

Outside of language skills, successful Copy Editors need lots of qualifications related to soft skills and areas like teamwork. These skills include:

  • Written and oral communication skills
  • Time management skills
  • Multitasking skills
  • The ability to work under pressure
  • The ability to meet tight deadlines
  • Organization skills

Copy Editor Salary Expectations

The average salary for a Copy Editor $20.10 per hour. However, the pay an Editor can make depends on many factors, such as whether they work part- or full-time and whether they have any type of management responsibilities.

Copy Editor Education and Training Requirements

Copy Editors need to have a bachelor’s degree in a related field, such as English or communications. It’s not uncommon for a Copy Editor to have a degree or training in an area related to the company’s field of expertise. For example, a scientific publication would likely want to hire Editors with a background in science.

Copy Editor Experience Requirements

Copy Editors can find work right out of college. It’s also common for writers to move up into editing roles or for Copy Editors to start in other editing or project management roles. Copy Editors should have demonstrated experience in clear communication.

Job Description Samples for Similar Positions

The responsibilities of a Copy Editor overlap with a few other positions, so it might help to expand your research. Consider these job description samples for similar roles:

Frequently asked questions about Copy Editors

 

What is the difference between a Copy Editor and a Proofreader?

The difference between a Copy Editor and a Proofreader is that Copy Editors play a much larger role in ensuring the quality of the content they edit. For example, both Copy Editors and Proofreaders strive to identify and correct grammatical errors and punctuation mistakes. However, Copy Editors go beyond editing format and typos. They also seek to ensure the validity of the content (if reviewing a non-fiction piece, instruction manual or biography) by checking credible resources and speaking with industry professionals. 

Further, they aim to highlight areas that need strengthening in the second draft. They also provide suggestions on where Writers should elaborate or condense their copy.

 

What are the daily duties of a Copy Editor?

A Copy Editor typically begins their day by arriving at their work location. A lot of Copy Editors also have the option of working remotely from their home. They have meetings with the Copy Chief or Chief Editor to discuss the progression of manuscripts and upcoming deadlines. 

On an average day, a Copy Editor has anywhere from one to several manuscripts to work on, each with their own deadlines and requirements. Copy Editors read through documents, usually in a digital format, correcting mistakes and leaving comments as they read through. If a manuscript requires fact-checking, they contact a Fact-Checker or credible professional who can provide more insights into the topic. If they complete a manuscript, they submit it for further review by the Chief Editor and the Writer of the piece. They typically perform several stages of editing to ensure the quality of the content.

 

What makes a good Copy Editor?

A good Copy Editor is someone with superb knowledge of the grammatical rules and punctuation of one or more languages. They should be quick learners as they may need to read through manuscripts meant for a particular audience or industry of which they aren’t familiar. A good Copy Editor should also have a talent for completing multiple assignments with overlapping deadlines while still maintaining a thorough work ethic. They should also display an ability to provide constructive criticism to maximize a project’s potential.

 

What should you look for in a Copy Editor resume?

A worthy job candidate for a Copy Editor position should have a polished resume, free of grammatical errors and punctuation mistakes. They should also present a list of previous roles that highlight their work in the publishing industry or specialized industry related to the content you publish. Work experience as a Writer, Editor, Proofreader, Fact-Checker or Copy Editor indicates their skill level and potential contributions to your company.

Job Description Examples

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