Editors - What They Do

Editors review, evaluate and edit manuscripts, articles, news reports and other material for publication, broadcast or interactive media and co-ordinate the activities of writers, journalists and other staff. They are employed by publishing firms, magazines, journals, newspapers, radio and television networks and stations, and by companies and government departments that produce publications such as newsletters, handbooks, manuals and Web sites. Editors may also work on a freelance basis.

Job duties

This group performs some or all of the following duties:

  • Evaluate suitability of manuscripts, articles, news copy and wire service dispatches for publication, broadcast or electronic media and recommend or make changes in content, style and organization
  • Read and edit copy to be published or broadcast to detect and correct errors in spelling, grammar and syntax, and shorten or lengthen copy as space or time requires
  • Confer with authors, staff writers, reporters and others regarding revisions to copy
  • Plan and implement layout or format of copy according to space or time allocations and significance of copy
  • Plan and co-ordinate activities of staff and assure production deadlines are met
  • Plan coverage of upcoming events and assign work accordingly
  • Write or prepare introductions, marketing and promotional materials, bibliographic references, indexes and other text
  • May negotiate royalties with authors and arrange for payment of freelance staff.
  • Editors may specialize in a particular subject area, such as news, sports or features, or in a particular type of publication, such as books, magazines, newspapers or manuals.

Job titles

  • medical editor
  • news editor
  • advertising editor
  • associate editor
  • literary editor
  • contributing editor
  • copy editor
  • editor
  • manuscript editor
  • sports editor
  • technical editor
  • editorial consultant
  • news service editor
Employment Requirements

This is what you typically need for the job:

  • A bachelor's degree in English, French, journalism or a related discipline is usually required.
  • Several years of experience in journalism, writing, publishing or a related field are usually required.
  • Membership in the Editors Association of Canada may be required.
  • Editors who specialize in a specific subject matter may be required to have training in that subject.

Essential Skills


  • Read entries in dictionaries, glossaries and terminological databases. For example, technical editors may verify definitions of words in dictionaries and in glossaries for specialized subject areas such as electronics, information technology, aeronautics and chemical processing. They may also read definitions in on-line terminological and linguistic databases. (1)
  • Read short e-mail. For example, corporate communications editors may read e-mail in which co-workers, colleagues and clients ask questions about editorial changes. Editors responsible for opinion and comment sections of newspapers may read e-mail from managing editors about possible themes for future editorials. (2)
  • Read letters. For example, a literary editor may read letters from authors about manuscripts which they are submitting. A newspaper editor may read a 'letter to the editor' in which the president of a local rifle association protests the passing of legislation which supports mandatory gun registration. (2)
  • Read instruction manuals, 'help' items and 'frequently asked question' entries when operating computers and peripheral equipment. For example, a magazine editor may read 'help items' to review the steps to manipulate photographs and other illustrations using photo editing software. (3)
  • Read trade publications and professional associations' newsletters to stay abreast of news, trends and other matters affecting their work. For example, literary editors may read the newsletters of the Editors' Association of Canada and of the Association nationale des éditeurs de livres to find out about upcoming book fairs. They may also read book reviews and author profiles in Quill & Quire, Publishers Weekly, Livres Hebdo, the Magazine littéraire and Lettres québécoises to ascertain industry trends. (3)
  • Read policies, guidelines, laws and standards. For example, news editors read standard references for newspaper writing style such as the Canadian Press Stylebook and Guide de redaction. They may review the journalistic policies and standards in their organizations' policy manuals to verify guidelines for personal blogging. They may read sections of Canadian privacy law for information on topics such as prohibitions on releasing the names of minors accused of criminal offences. Literary editors may read about the Book Publishing Industry Development Program on the Canadian Heritage website in order to verify funding eligibility criteria. (4)
  • Read manuscripts, articles, news copy, wire service dispatches and other texts critically. For example, literary editors read novels, biographies, essays, plays and other manuscripts submitted by authors to determine quality, sales potential and suitability for their publishing firms. They may read manuscripts to provide authors and writers with constructive criticism and guidance on matters such as theme, flow, coherence, character development and structure. Newspaper, magazine and journal editors read news stories, articles and features submitted by journalists and reporters. They evaluate the strength of lead paragraphs, value to readers, tone, content, readability, length and bias. (5)

Document use

  • Locate data on product and equipment labels. For example, radio news editors may scan labels on office equipment for manufacturers' names and model numbers. (1)
  • Locate data in lists, tables and schedules. For example, they may scan software interface toolbars and menus to locate search options in terminological databases. Radio news editors may skim holiday broadcast schedules to verify which days their programs are on air. Book editors may scan the tables of contents of manuscripts submitted for evaluation to select sample chapters. They may also read royalty statements to locate data on book titles, quantities sold, list prices and authors' royalty rates and sales earnings. (2)
  • Enter data into lists, tables and schedules. For example, a book editor may enter the places, names and locations mentioned in a manuscript into alphabetical indexes. A magazine editor may enter article submission deadlines into a timetable. A radio news editor may enter the titles and dates of broadcast items into an electronic schedule archive. (2)
  • Locate data and identify trends in graphs. For example, they may scan graphs to verify quantities and trends reported in news, feature articles, essays and other texts. (2)
  • Locate data in entry forms such as fax cover sheets, invoices and receipts. For example, magazine and newspaper editors may scan invoices submitted by freelance journalists and feature writers. They may search different sections of the invoices to locate the descriptions of work done, rates, federal and provincial sales taxes and other data. (3)
  • Enter data into forms. For example, book editors may complete government grant applications to receive financial support for publishing the works of local authors. Newspaper editors may complete media accreditation application forms. They have to combine data from several sources to complete such forms. (3)


  • Write short notes and e-mail. For example, newspaper and magazine editors write notes and e-mail to co-workers to keep them up to date about news stories, features and articles that will be published. (1)
  • Write letters. For example, book editors write letters to authors to confirm that they have received manuscripts and to justify editorial committees' decisions to accept and reject manuscripts. (2)
  • May write headlines, captions, book titles and chapter headings. For example, newspaper, magazine and journal editors write headlines for articles to be published, using an economy of carefully selected words to convey the most important points. In these headlines, they may announce news, reveal unknown facts, ask intriguing questions and use quotes and puns to catch readers' attention and convince them that subsequent information is worth reading. (3)
  • May write texts to promote books, newspapers, journals, magazines, newsletters and other publications. For example, a book editor may write a media release to announce publication of an illustrated biography of Maurice Richard, a legendary hockey player who inspired generations of hockey fans. (3)
  • May write editorials in which they express opinions about particular topics, offer facts to support their views and offer recommendations for change. They may have to gather, select, synthesize and rewrite information from various sources. For example, an editor for a small town newspaper may write editorials about complex topics affecting the community, paying close attention to issues of strong interest and importance to local people. (4)
  • May write contracts and agreements. For example, book editors may prepare agreements between publishers and authors. They may write clauses to specify matters such as numbers of copies printed, editorial control, promotional efforts, publication delays, royalties and copyrights. They must be explicit and precise to ensure that all concerned parties share a common understanding of agreement terms and conditions. (4)
  • May write the back and front cover copy and introductory pages of publications such as books, journals and magazines. For example, a book editor may write copyright notices, credit lines, acknowledgements, prefaces, forewords, dedications and biographical notes for manuscripts to be published. (4)
  • Edit literary works, magazine articles, news reports and other texts for publication and broadcast. They locate and correct errors in spelling, syntax, punctuation, style and word usage. They delete ineffective words, phrases and sentences and insert better alternatives. They rewrite texts to improve their structure, flow, coherence, succinctness, readability and panache while respecting authors' and writers' original intent and vision. They ensure that crucial information has not been omitted and that wording is not open to interpretation. For example, a technical editor may eliminate repetition and jargon from complex scientific texts to make them clearer and more easily understood by readers with limited scientific background. A literary editor may write substantive changes and add text to a novel to improve focus, content, form and structure and to make it more appealing to readers. An advertising editor may edit newspaper and magazine advertisements and 'advertorials' to correct errors in spelling, ambiguous pronoun references and faulty syntax. A news editor may edit news items from a national database of Canadian and international news headlines for addition to a three-hour morning radio program. The editor may write transitions and bridges to achieve better flow. (5)


Money Math

  • May calculate and verify royalty amounts. For example, book editors may verify authors' royalty amounts. They multiply gross sales by royalty rates. (2)
  • Calculate and verify reimbursement amounts for business travel and conferences. For example, book editors returning from out-of-town book launchings may calculate reimbursements for use of personal vehicles at per kilometre rates and add amounts for accommodation, meals and other expenses. (2)
  • Calculate and verify purchase order and invoice amounts. For example, they may calculate line amounts, taxes and totals on purchase orders for office equipment, paper, ink cartridges and other supplies. They may also verify line amounts and applicable sales taxes on invoices submitted by freelance journalists, feature writers, photography studios and printers. (3)

Scheduling, Budgeting & Accounting Math

  • May calculate production costs and retail and wholesale prices. For example, literary editors may calculate the retail prices of books as cost plus margin. They may also calculate mark-ups and discounts on wholesale and retail prices. (2)
  • Prepare and monitor schedules for editing and publishing projects. For example, a book editor may prepare a schedule for the publication of an essay. The editor allocates time for writing and editing the piece and for creating promotional materials and coordinating the design, proofreading and printing. (3)
  • Prepare and monitor budgets for editing and publishing projects. For example, a book editor has to ensure that expenditures for editing, graphic design, printing, marketing, distribution and author's royalties will be fully covered by book sales. (3)

Measurement and Calculation Math

  • May measure the duration of newscasts using stopwatches. For example, a news editor measures the reading times for news stories before including them in a newscast. (1)
  • May calculate the space required for the texts and illustrations in books, articles, news reports and other materials for print and electronic publication. For example, a magazine editor may calculate the number of pages required for a feature article, given the number of words, column widths and desirable sizes of accompanying photographs. (2)
  • may calculate the readability of text using readability formulae. For example, an advertising editor may calculate Gunning fog indices to measure the readability of English texts written for newspaper and magazine advertisements, brochures and catalogues. (2)

Data Analysis Math

  • May create and analyze statistics which describe the quality and originality of texts. For example, a corporate communications editor may count numbers of words in long sentences and calculate average sentence length for particular pieces of writing. A book editor may calculate percentages of words repeated in two pieces of writing to confirm plagiarism. (3)
  • Collect, analyze and interpret performance, audience, sales and other data. For example, they may generate and interpret performance measures such as words and pages written and edited per hour and per day. Radio and television news editors may review Bureau of Broadcast Measurement statistics to analyze audiences by size, region and other demographic characteristics. Book editors may compare quantities of titles sold by author and collection over a period of time to identify deviations from targets. (3)

Numerical Estimation

  • Estimate times to perform job tasks using past experience as a guide. For example, editors estimate the number of hours required to perform substantive, stylistic and copy editing and the time intervals needed to obtain authors' and writers' review and approval of proposed changes. (2)
  • May estimate sales quantities. For example, a literary editor may estimate sales volume for a new novel by analyzing the sales volumes for books by the same author or books by other authors on similar subjects and intended for similar reading audiences. (3)

Oral communication

  • Give directions to co-workers and colleagues and discuss ongoing work with them. They assign new tasks to members of their teams, provide instructions, review completed tasks and help resolve difficulties. For example, newspaper and magazine editors may assign the coverage of upcoming events and topics to journalists, reporters, writers and photographers. They may also assign the proofreading of materials and verification of facts to editorial assistants and publication clerks and provide them with criticism, advice and encouragement. (2)
  • Talk to readers, viewers and listeners. They obtain permissions, listen to suggestions and objections and accept criticism. For example, a newspaper editor may talk to an irate politician who strongly objects to a published editorial. The editor may listen to the objections and then offer space for a rebuttal in the public opinion section of an upcoming newspaper edition. (2)
  • Negotiate fees and deadlines for the delivery of products and services. For example, book editors may negotiate royalties with authors and fees with artists, graphic designers, writers, typesetters, proofreaders and printers. They may also negotiate deadlines for the delivery of corrected manuscripts from authors and proofreaders, artwork from artists, galleys and laser proofs from designers and bound books from printers. (2)
  • Discuss writing, editing and publishing with co-workers and colleagues. For example, they may confer with journalists, reporters, writers and authors about suggested changes to improve content, structure, flow, coherence, succinctness, readability and panache in texts to be published. Book editors may discuss production, storage, distribution, sales representation, marketing and publicity with managers and other editors. They may discuss translation styles and terminology with translators. They must be explicit and precise to obtain translations which maintain the structure, style and intent of the original texts while reflecting cultural differences. (3)
  • May lead meetings of co-workers and colleagues. For example, chief newspaper and magazine editors lead editorial board meetings to develop ideas and angles for stories and to reach consensus about positions to be adopted on political and business issues. They may lead meetings with graphic designers in order to generate original concepts to illustrate and support articles. Chief book editors lead editorial committee meetings to choose manuscripts for publication. They may lead meetings with authors, editors and publishers to identify the purposes and target markets of selected manuscripts. (3)
  • Deliver presentations to a wide range of audiences. For example, broadcast news editors may act as masters of ceremonies at fundraising dinners and other events. Book editors may give talks about their work to groups of students gathered at job exploration fairs. They may lead sessions at writers' conferences on strategies for finding and impressing publishers. They may also introduce new books and authors at launchings and conferences and on radio and television programs. (4)


Problem Solving

  • Realize that deadlines for the delivery of articles, news reports and other texts will be missed because of malfunctioning office equipment and other unforeseen circumstances. For example, news editors may find that co-workers and colleagues have not completed writing, proofreading and fact-checking tasks. Book editors may find that substantive and structural editing is needed whereas only copy editing for grammar, punctuation and spelling was expected. They contact managers and clients to outline the reasons for delays and negotiate new deadlines. (2)
  • Receive news stories, magazine articles, features and other texts that are inappropriate for publication and broadcast. For example, a news editor may not have sufficient time for a journalist's lengthy feature article on springtime garden care. The editor may shorten the presentation or save it for a slow news day. (2)
  • Discover that erroneous information has been published and broadcast. For example, a radio news editor may realize that factual errors were reported in a story about home renovation fraud. The editor may ask the reporter who first broke the story to rectify the situation and apologize on air. (3)

Decision Making

  • May approve and reject proofs prior to publication. For example, magazine and newspaper editors may verify that proofs are free from grammatical, typographical and compositional errors. (1)
  • May select office equipment and software to purchase. For example, self-employed editors may select software for writing, editing and formatting text and laying out pages. They verify which programs are most often used by clients. They also consider the costs and user-friendliness offered by each option. (2)
  • Select writers, journalists, illustrators, proofreaders and other service providers. They consider applicants' academic backgrounds, skills, portfolios, work histories, strengths, weaknesses and availabilities. For example, newspaper and magazine editors may select freelance journalists to write feature articles. Literary editors may select artists, photographers and graphic designers to work on book production projects. (2)
  • Choose suppliers for commercial products and services. For example, a book editor may select the printer with the lowest quote given the manuscript's size, use of colour and binding and the quantity of book copies needed. (2)
  • Choose layouts for print and electronic publication and video and audio sequences for broadcasts. They may consider factors such as topics' importance, space and time limitations, aesthetics and budgets. For example, newspaper and magazine editors choose the stories, photographs and other illustrations to appear on each page of each edition. They also select design features such as colours, column and trim sizes, text and display fonts and the styles of headers and footers. (3)

Critical Thinking

  • May evaluate the performance of contractors such as journalists, reporters, writers, editorial assistants, publication clerks, proofreaders, artists, photographers, graphic designers and typesetters. As part of these assessments, they determine the extent to which contractors have met expectations and deadlines. They may recommend and offer further assignments at the conclusion of these evaluations. (2)
  • Evaluate the suitability of manuscripts, articles, news stories, wire service dispatches and other texts. They consider aspects such as writing contents, styles, tones, bias and originality, editorial policies, media positions, value and appeal to target audiences, space and time requirements, legal risks and commercial viability. For example, literary editors assess the suitability of novels, biographies, essays, plays and other manuscripts for their publishing firms. (3)

Job Task Planning and Organizing

Own Job Planning and Organizing

Editors plan and organize job tasks to ensure the delivery of high-quality materials for publication and broadcast within deadlines and budgets. They often work on several projects at the same time and manage shifting priorities. They frequently reorganize job tasks to accommodate delays due to missing text, malfunctioning equipment and other events.

Planning and Organizing for Others

Editors play a central role in organizing, planning and scheduling the production of materials for publication and broadcast. They may contribute to long-term and strategic planning for publishing firms, magazines, journals and newspapers. They may be responsible for assigning tasks to journalists, reporters, writers, authors, editorial assistants, publication clerks, proofreaders, artists, photographers, graphic designers and typesetters.

Significant Use of Memory

  • Remember printing terms so that they can better describe the printing processes and products they want for publications.
  • Remember portions of codes, standards and regulations governing their work.
  • Remember security codes to access computers and networks.
  • Recall the names of their many co-workers and colleagues in order to build trust and facilitate communication.

Finding Information

  • Find information about terminologies, grammar, spelling, syntax, punctuation and styles by consulting co-workers and colleagues and by searching terminological databases, glossaries, reference manuals, style books and dictionaries. (3)
  • Find information about continuing education opportunities. They consult co-workers and colleagues, contact professional editors' associations and search the Internet. (3)
  • Find information about the topics of news stories, novels and other written materials by conducting extensive literature searches. They analyze, synthesize and integrate information from a wide range of sources, including books, reports, studies, newspapers, magazines, and academic journals. For example, they may confirm names, dates, locations, statistics, events and quotes reported in materials which they edit. They consult co-workers and subject matter experts and perform searches of archives, library collections and databases. (4)

Digital technology

  • May use databases. For example, news editors may search for and download daily news stories from the Canadian Press' on-line database. (2)
  • Use communications software. For example, they use e-mail programs to exchange e-mail and attached documents with co-workers, colleagues and clients. (2)
  • Use the Internet. For example, they may use Internet browsers to access specialized dictionaries and to obtain information about grammar, styles and linguistics from the websites of editors' associations. They may also use various search engines to locate information relevant to books, articles, news reports and other materials which they are editing. (2)
  • Use word processing. For example, they may write and edit text for letters, books, feature articles, biographical notes and promotional materials using word processing programs. They may supplement text with imported graphs, illustrations and spreadsheets. They may use formatting features such as styles, page numbering, heading levels, indices, footnotes and columns. They may also generate automated tables of contents and use word count, spell-check and change tracking functions. (3)
  • May use graphics software. For example, they may crop and enhance photographs and other illustrations using photo editing software. Technical editors may modify schematic drawings using diagramming and drawing programs. (3)
  • May use spreadsheets. For example, self-employed editors may use spreadsheet programs to create invoices and keep track of time devoted to their projects. Literary editors may use spreadsheet programs to develop sales scenarios for various profit margins and production costs. They embed formulas to perform calculations. (3)
  • May use other computer and software applications. For example, book, news, feature and advertising editors may use desktop publishing programs to edit and format texts for print and electronic publication. Technical editors may use desktop publishing tools to edit and format texts for instruction manuals, user guides, on-line help and tutorials. They may also use screen capture and image editors to add screen captures into software manuals. (4)

Other Essential Skills:

Working with Others

Editors integrate and coordinate job tasks with co-workers and colleagues. They work with journalists, reporters, writers and authors on revisions to texts. They direct and coordinate the work of artists, photographers, graphic designers, typesetters and printers. They may collaborate with managers on the storage, distribution, sales and marketing of publications. They may also direct, lead, supervise and train editorial assistants, publication clerks and proofreaders. (3)

Continuous Learning

Editors set their own learning goals and undertake learning activities to further their knowledge of writing topics and of substantive, stylistic, copy and production editing. On a day-to-day basis, they acquire new learning by speaking to co-workers and colleagues, by searching dictionaries, glossaries and terminological databases and by reading policies, guidelines, laws, standards, newspapers, magazines and books. They also attend conferences, seminars, workshops and courses offered by professional editors' and writers' associations and other organizations. (4)