Employer Resources

What Exactly Does an Editor Do?

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In a nutshell, editors write, edit, and commission stories. However, their daily responsibilities will vary depending on the medium they work with (newspaper, magazine, book, social media, or website). Their workplace also influences an editor’s responsibilities, as projects and teams will vary.

Typically, an editor spends their days (and nights) working towards meeting a deadline or closing issues, pitching ideas, reporting, managing social media, curating content, overseeing new projects, managing writers, developing production schedules, and editing copy. These types of editors are a bit different from freelance editors for hire

An editor is also responsible for checking spelling, facts, grammar, and punctuation. Additionally, they’re usually tasked with ensuring articles correspond with in-house style guidelines.

Sometimes, editors will remove text that doesn’t fit the story or undertake some re-writing themselves to improve the overall quality of the writing. If you’re writing a book and wondering if you need to hire an editor before getting an agent, you can learn more here.

Let’s dive into the different types of editors and what they each are responsible for.

Developmental Editor

When a writer has an idea for a book, they often seek the help of a developmental editor. This kind of editor helps develop a book from the idea stage, outline, from the writer’s initial draft.

A developmental editor looks at the overall structure, content, and focus of a book. Any inconsistencies, such as in the tone or style, are addressed during the developmental stage. The editor also works with the writer to meet the publishing house’s requirements, which may sometimes take many drafts.

During this stage, editors create a manuscript that can be green-lighted to progress to the next step. Although content, organization, and presentation are all crucial factors which are addressed at this stage, the developmental editor also focuses on other critical things, such as character development, clarity of plot, and getting the setting right. This editor may ask the writer to conduct additional research to “flesh out” certain parts of the content to improve its flow.

Substantive Editor

Substantive editors can help both fiction and non-fiction writers. These editors look at a manuscript once the writer has completed several drafts with a developmental editor.

They look at minor details and take into account the overall feel of the manuscript, addressing any points of weakness. A substantive editor can help writers improve their plot, dialogue, story elements, scene order, characterization, syntax, and sentence structure, along with the overall flow and structure of the writing.

Acquisition Editor

An acquisition editor looks for new writers and determines which manuscripts may be suitable for different publishing companies. These editors will promote the chosen writers, pitch the publishing house to publish the manuscripts, and facilitate communication between the writer and the publisher. Acquisition editors also manage all the marketing, budgeting, and contractual decisions.

Line Editor

A line editor makes sure that word choice for each sentence aligns with the overall tone of the book. Also, they review the manuscript line by line while checking for spelling mistakes and grammatical errors, which could compromise the quality of work. Their primary focus is to be deeply in tune with the writer’s voice and enforce it throughout the text. Rather than ‘fixing’ the writer’s voice, good line editors will make it sharper and stronger.

Copy Editor

A copy editor is one of the last people to go over a manuscript before it’s ready for publishing. Copy editors review the manuscript for inconsistencies in facts, style, and theme. They’ll also check for any copyright material present in the text to make sure there’s no legal conflict. Copy editors also scan the spelling, grammar, and punctuation a final time. The primary focus of a copy editor is to make sure the text is clear, captures the reader’s attention, and adheres to in-house style rules.

Production Editor

In the final editing stages, an edited manuscript goes to the production editor. This person oversees the transition from manuscript to published book. The production editor is the last to review a manuscript before it’s printed. This editor also controls the budgeting, typesetting, and artwork, ensuring that all the details are perfect before the work is finally published.

Production editing is a many-sided role, requiring editorial and project management skills. This phase of editing is all about quality control, differing significantly from other editing roles regarding the scale of changes made (micro vs. macro). Production editors deal with non-substantive and small-scale changes, whereas other editors deal with substantive and large-scale transformations. Production editors handle further quality checks, including extensive formatting checks, copyediting, and proofreading. Typically, production editors catch minor errors, such as typos, odd layout issues, and grammatical errors.

Final Thoughts

Typically, editors review and polish texts like books, articles, or stories. Many editors oversee documents from their inception to their final stages, examining manuscripts for inconsistencies in theme, style, and factual information.

An editor’s daily responsibilities vary, based on whether they work for a newspaper,  magazine, publishing house, or another type of media outlet. Editors typically cast a critical eye over the written pieces they’re reviewing and direct their focus in a specific direction, to ensure the content maintains the reader’s interest and aligns with the publication style guide or submission guidelines.

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