September 30, 2005



How does one become a copyeditor? Is that the kind of job one falls into? Or do you need to be schooled or something? I am genuinely curious, as it's something I've thought of doing but no nothing about.

Christian Bauman

I took a class in it, at NYU's School of Continuing Education. This was in 1996 or so, I think. Maybe 1997. It was a 1-semester fundamentals in copyediting and proofreading taught by Tory Klose, the managing editor of Viking and a bit of a publishing legend. She learned us up good, y'all.
Most (or many, I should say) community colleges offer a copyediting fundamentals course. The problem then, as it is with so many things, is finding work. Once you have a a few good clients on the resume, it gets easier. But those first few are difficult.
There is a newsletter publication called Copy Editor that has an online presence and a job forum (or they used to, anyway; it's been a few years since I've checked).


I agree with you--I've had a similar experience. Other than a few adolescent novel- and short-story writing attempts, and one novelwriting attempt at 20 years old, I really didn't "start" writing seriously until after I'd worked in publishing for several years.

I think more people seem to evolve the opposite way: they start out as writers and wind up becoming editors. I say, it's probably better to start out as an editor and wind up becoming a writer. Though there are other options, like starting out as an editor and remaining one, starting out as a writer and remaining one, starting out as neither and remaining as neither or ultimately becoming an editor or writer or both, and so on.

IMO, possessing colorful (and preferably pretty vast) life experiences before "becoming" a writer is often very important. I never intended to work as an editor or even be a writer. I have a background in science and landed an in-house job with a scientific nonfiction publisher; jobs of any kind were tough to come by at the time....

The comments to this entry are closed.


  • The Elegant Variation is "Fowler’s (1926, 1965) term for the inept writer’s overstrained efforts at freshness or vividness of expression. Prose guilty of elegant variation calls attention to itself and doesn’t permit its ideas to seem naturally clear. It typically seeks fancy new words for familiar things, and it scrambles for synonyms in order to avoid at all costs repeating a word, even though repetition might be the natural, normal thing to do: The audience had a certain bovine placidity, instead of The audience was as placid as cows. Elegant variation is often the rock, and a stereotype, a cliché, or a tired metaphor the hard place between which inexperienced or foolish writers come to grief. The familiar middle ground in treating these homely topics is almost always the safest. In untrained or unrestrained hands, a thesaurus can be dangerous."


  • The Bookshop by Penelope Fitzgerald


    Penelope Fitzgerald's second novel is the tale of Florence Green, a widow who seeks, in the late 1950s, to bring a bookstore to an isolated British town, encountering all manner of obstacles, including incompetent builders, vindictive gentry, small minded bankers, an irritable poltergeist, but, above all, a town that might not, in fact, want a bookshop. Fitzgerald's prose is spare but evocative – there's no wasted effort and her work reminds one of Hemingway's dictum that every word should fight for its right to be on the page. Florence is an engaging creation, stubbornly committed to her plan even as uncertainty regarding the wisdom of the enterprise gnaws at her. But The Bookshop concerns itself, finally, with the astonishing vindictiveness of which provincials are capable, and, as so much English fiction must, it grapples with the inevitabilities of class. It's a dense marvel at 123 pages, a book you won't want to – or be able to – rush through.
  • The Rider by Tim Krabbe


    Tim Krabbé's superb 1978 memoir-cum-novel is the single best book we've read about cycling, a book that will come closer to bringing you inside a grueling road race than anything else out there. A kilometer-by-kilometer look at just what is required to endure some of the most grueling terrain in the world, Krabbé explains the tactics, the choices and – above all – the grinding, endless, excruciating pain that every cyclist faces and makes it heart-pounding rather than expository or tedious. No writer has better captured both the agony and the determination to ride through the agony. He's an elegant stylist (ably served by Sam Garrett's fine translation) and The Rider manages to be that rarest hybrid – an authentic, accurate book about cycling that's a pleasure to read. "Non-racers," he writes. "The emptiness of those lives shocks me."