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By Stephanie Holt AE (

A few times a year, Editors Victoria holds an “Ask an Editor!” Q&A for editing students, and there are always some curly questions. Luckily our guest panellists Caroline Arnoul and Margaret Trudgeon were up for the latest challenge, with question-wrangling by branch Student Adviser Cai Bardsley.

So what do editing students want to know?

“What is the role and value of disagreement in editing?” 

The panel agreed there is value to disagreement, though how much and when is important. Interchange – even some “push back” from an author – can signal engagement in the process. It’s also a prompt to question our assumptions and preferences, and a reminder that the text is the author’s work. That said, we agreed it was important to “pick your battles”; to be open and tactful, not didactic or inflexible. Working on a sample or small section first was suggested as a way to smooth the later work – as well as helpful to cost a project and estimate time needed.

“How hard is it to discipline yourself to do a light copyedit?”

As experienced editors, we all agreed the challenge was to clarify expectations, and recognise that a “light” copyedit doesn’t mean less, or easier, work! Checking in about the specifics of the brief and what the text most needs is important, always unpacking general terms like “proofread” and “copyedit”. Flagging things to return to is often wise. As editors, by reading further into a job we can gain helpful understanding of specialist content and the author’s style (and recurrent problems). When the brief is clear, the discipline comes more easily!

“What are the traps to look out for if editing a friend’s work?”

Editing for a friend is great to gain experience, but there are risks! Criticising your friend’s writing may impact your friendship. Then there’s the challenge of really reading with fresh eyes, to properly represent the reader, if you have inside knowledge of the person and their project. It may be difficult to find an appropriate communication style, given your friend’s professional needs may be very different from what you assume, or are used to, as a friend. And finally, there’s the impact on a friendship of charging – and perhaps chasing – a professional fee.

“How do you get that vital first job?”

We all use different methods, but never just one: LinkedIn, cold calls, putting the word out through people we know, volunteering, having a website, joining online forums … And our extra advice: think about that second job too! Deliver on time, be courteous, stay in touch to encourage a follow-up (but don’t be afraid to say no to someone you didn’t enjoy working with the first time round).

“What does your typical day as a professional editor look like?”

The consensus was that there is no typical week, much less typical day! The range of tasks our panellists might tackle in a week included editing, admin, marketing, professional development and client relationships. Advice included breaking up concentrated tasks like proofreading with routine ones like updating LinkedIn and cleaning up email, or fun ones like a catch-up chat with a past client and exploring new apps and editing sites. Scheduling a block of time for things like invoicing was recommended, as was wriggle room in your schedule for urgent jobs or in case of blowouts or delays.