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Editing secrets finally revealed!

Sandra Gravel
Editors’ Association of Canada
(The Editors’ Association of Canada began using the name Editors Canada on July 1, 2015.)


Many of them work in the shadows, correcting, improving and polishing texts of every kind. Professional editors are the ones who weed out errors and enhance the style of the texts they revise!

Fortunately, the profession of editor is enjoying growing recognition today. Thoroughly reviewing a text—be it a scientific work, a manuscript, a report, an Internet site, a brochure, etc.—is now part of the publishing process. There is an increased awareness that clear and error-free writing adds to any organization’s credibility.

The role

An editor's task is to improve and correct a text in order to "ensure language quality and effective communication." [Translation]1 Thus, the editor's role is to eliminate all errors and clarify the author's intended message.

Whether salaried or freelance, the editor can assist in producing documents from a wide variety of sources, such as government, private companies, publishing houses (book or magazine), communications agencies, educational institutions and non-profit organizations. In short, any organization or person concerned about writing and language quality can benefit from a professional editor's knowledge.

Why? First, because editors look at a writing project from a fresh perspective. Second, because editors have an in-depth knowledge of language and its problems. Moreover, editors have the training and experience to critically analyze a text; and, lastly, they know how to solve problems that may come up in a text.

The method

Depending on their mandate, editors will do a first reading to understand the essence of the text and its purpose. On the second reading, they will pinpoint grammatical and structural errors. The next step will involve the actual correction of the text and the rewriting of certain passages as required.

Good editors have a clear understanding of the nuances of a text and stay true to an author's style, while helping correct the author's weaknesses. Whenever keen-eyed editors stumble over a word or passage, they stop and check in recognized reference works (hard copy or electronic) to confirm or eliminate any doubts.

The qualities and qualifications

Some might say that perfectionism is a nasty fault, but for editors it is in fact a valuable quality. Perfectionism is what drives them to get to the bottom of things, to check, and to make the necessary corrections to improve a text.

Besides having an excellent command of language, the most sought-after professional editors possess certain qualifications that are very much appreciated by their employer or clients. For example, they have:

  • an understanding of communication objectives;
  • the ability to justify their corrections;
  • a strong sense of diplomacy;
  • the ability to work fast;
  • concern for a job well done;
  • a good general knowledge;
  • a healthy curiosity;
  • good judgment.

Humility often completes the list of qualifications, for the editor's work often goes unnoticed! Fortunately, editors work toward improving all kinds of writing primarily because they love language… to perfection!


Back to the note 1  Les principes directeurs de la révision professionnelle. Association canadienne des réviseurs. Toronto. 2006.