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Professional Editorial Standards: A. The Fundamentals of Editing

Professional editors may perform a variety of tasks, from managing an entire publishing process to performing only a specific part of it. Regardless of the extent of their involvement, all editors need to have a broad understanding of the process and of their role within it. They should demonstrate initiative and flexibility, being able to adapt to the needs of the project and the specific work environment, and they need to communicate clearly and tactfully and to respect the opinions of others.

Before undertaking a project, professional editors should ensure that they have the skills, training, and experience necessary to complete the work. Editors should also continue to improve and upgrade their knowledge and skills throughout their careers.

A professional editor meets the following standards.


A1 Know the publishing process

Know that an editor is part of a larger process, whether for print or electronic publishing. Understand the stages of the process so that the editor's work complements the work of the other team members.

A1.1 Understand the stages of a project, the typical roles of a production team, and the editor's place in the process.

A1.2 Understand the generally recognized stages of the editorial process and be aware that they may overlap or unfold differently during a given project.

A1.3 Be familiar with the terminology commonly used in editing and publishing.

A1.4 Understand the different types of publications and media and the implications these have for editing and production choices.

A2 Know the importance of the audience and the purpose of the material

Be aware of the implications that the audience and purpose of the material have for editing and production choices. At every stage, look ahead to the final product.

A3 Know how the scope of a project affects the editorial process

Understand how editing is influenced by the scope of a project: what the project is (its purpose, audience, and medium); the level of editorial intervention required; the time, budget, and other resources available; the roles of the key players in the project; and the lines of authority.

A4 Know the medium

When editing any type of publication, know its parts and understand their purposes and their usual order or placement (e.g., parts of a printed or electronic page; parts of a book, periodical, or newsletter; conventions for government or corporate reports; conventions for websites or other electronic publications).

A5 Know the legal and ethical requirements pertaining to publishing

Understand that an editor is part of a process with legal and ethical dimensions.

A5.1 Understand the legal dimensions of the publishing process, including the fundamental concepts of copyright (e.g., ownership of works, public domain, moral rights), plagiarism, libel, obscenity, privacy protection, and related matters.

A5.2 Understand the ethical dimensions of the publishing process, including the need to address biased, non-inclusive, and offensive material.

A5.3 Understand the editor's role in these parts of the process, and know the importance of addressing any related issues that arise at any stage in the edit.

A5.4 Know when permissions are required.

A6 Know the basic elements of the design and production process

Be aware of the role that an editor plays in the design and production process and understand the basic principles, conventions, terminology, and tools of that process.

A6.1 Understand how design can be used to convey meaning and improve readability.

A6.2 Understand how textual elements and the interrelationship between text, format, and design can affect readability in different media.

A6.3 Understand the conventions for displaying tables, figures, graphs, maps, and other visual elements.

A6.4 As the task requires, be familiar with typographical characteristics, including typographical measures (e.g., pixels, points), text alignment (e.g., indentation, justification), spacing (e.g., hair space, em space), and typeface (e.g., serif, sans serif, weight, x-height, ascender, descender).

A6.5 As the task requires, be familiar with software commonly used for design, formatting, electronic publishing, and web authoring.

A6.6 As the task requires, be familiar with common visual elements, such as the main graphic formats (e.g., EPS, JPEG, TIFF) and types of images (e.g., icons, photographs, video excerpts, illustrations).


A7 Set and maintain a realistic schedule

Set realistic schedules and meet deadlines, whether working, for example, as an editor who sets and maintains a project schedule, as a staff editor who handles one part of a larger schedule, or as a freelance editor who balances the deadlines of various clients.

A8 Define and apply the appropriate editorial intervention

Bearing in mind the scope of the project (see A3), assess the quality of the material and determine the editorial intervention that is appropriate.

A8.1 Determine the extent of the edit to be applied: the stage or stages (structural, stylistic, or copy editing; proofreading) and the level of edit (heavy, light). Ensure that others on the team are aware of these decisions and what they entail.

A8.2 Having determined the extent of the edit, recognize what needs to be changed and perform the editing that is required or requested, applying the stage and level of edit consistently.

A8.3 Ensure that the format is appropriate for the material to best meet the needs of the intended audience, purpose, and medium.

A8.4 Consider the implications of time, cost, production processes, and the intended audience and purpose when suggesting changes. At the earliest opportunity, flag problems that may affect the schedule or budget.

A9 Identify and address legal and ethical problems

Bearing in mind the legal and ethical dimensions of the publishing process (see A5), at the earliest possible opportunity, address any related issues that arise.

A9.1 Identify and either resolve or flag possible instances of legal problems (e.g., copyright infringement, plagiarism, libel, obscenity, privacy violations).

A9.2 Identify potentially biased, non-inclusive, and offensive material (e.g., racist, sexist, culturally stereotyped assumptions or content) and remove, amend, or flag it.

A10 Use common editing tools competently

Use software, other electronic tools, and reference materials relevant to editing competently and efficiently.

A10.1 Use current electronic technology and software for working with and sharing materials with authors, clients, or team members.

A10.2 Maintain proficiency in the software features relevant to editing (e.g., finding and replacing items, marking revisions, checking spelling and language level).

A10.3 Know where to find and how to use current, reliable reference works, both print and electronic, including style guides, dictionaries, and other sources.

A11 Ensure that edits are clearly communicated so that they can be properly applied and captured in the production process

Communicate edits clearly. Manage files and documents methodically.

A11.1 Mark and convey changes, suggestions, and directions in a way that will be clear to the person who needs to apply them, whether orally or in writing (e.g., paper or electronic markup, margin notes, emails, assessments).

A11.2 Communicate clearly and tactfully with team members at all stages.

A11.3 Keep copies of successive drafts and proofs, identify who has made the changes, and take steps to ensure that all parties are using the current version of a document.

A11.4 Verify that requested changes have been made correctly and ensure that material approved in preceding stages has not been changed unintentionally.

A12 Introduce no new errors

Make all changes without altering the intended meaning or introducing errors.