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									What Is Freelance Copy Editing?
People interested in other freelance writing careers usually look upon copy editing with
disdain. Copy editing doesn't involve attention to the actual structure of a piece, they say,
and involves little research and fact-chasing necessary to create a lively, memorable
article or story. However, copy editing carries its own unique challenges; such as:

1) you need to pay careful attention to the basic mechanics of writing; and

2) you need to pay attention to accuracy, both in facts and in language.

Freelance copy editing isn't just a simpler offshoot of freelance writing in general, but an
important discipline in its own right -- and a rewarding one.

To become a successful copy editor you need to know how to use style guides. With
some exceptions, editors of newspapers, magazines, and other print publications require
you to write in a homogeneous style, both to compensate for writers with occasionally
sloppy spelling and usage and to ensure consistent terminology over time. (This is
important with newspapers: the names of foreign leaders, organizations, and other
foreign-language nouns are often subject to variant spellings.)

The most commonly used style guides include AP (Associated Press), MLA (Modern
Language Association), and Chicago. Any budding freelance copy editor would do well
to own a copy of each of these, and to become familiar with their use before applying for
jobs. Prospective employers will not hire copy editors who lack knowledge of style
guides. Use a product like StyleEase software to help with style.

Fact checking is another prime skill for copy editors, as it is a publication's first line of
defense against accusations of libel or misrepresentation. Fact-checking is a simple
procedure: call the author of the article, ask for his or her sources, and, if warranted, call
the sources directly to confirm quotes or statistics. Different publications will have
different procedures for fact-checking, all of which should be explained when you take a
job.

Beyond that, all that it takes to become a successful copy editor is a sensitivity to
cumbersome phrasing, grammar, and spelling, as well as a sensitivity to an author's
personal style. Many novice copy editors take a far too forceful approach to their work,
effectively rewriting a reporter or other writer's article for them in line with style guides
and their own ideas about what makes good writing. This isn't the function of a copy
editor. Yes, clarity, grammar, and other issues with writing mechanics are all important,
but a writer's ego is important as well, and a too-free hand in the editing process can
alienate a publication's staff reporters and foster general enmity.
Since rewriting someone's article causes you more additional work as well, why would
you want to do it? Instead, just try to achieve sufficient clarity while leaving as much of
the original article "as-is" as you can. If there are any substantial portions of text that
inhibit clarity or exhibit serious mechanical errors, talk to the writer personally before
making any changes. Yes, it's an extra step, but one that ensures professional respect in
the workplace.

If you don't want to work for a publication, there are plenty of opportunities available for
freelance copy editing, both for corporations and for private individuals. Educational
publications, in particular, are always looking for good copy editors, and book publishers
and literary journals always have a few spots available. You can find out about these
opportunities through classified ads, or by making inquiries directly to the company.
There's typically a lot of competition in these sorts of jobs, so a solid interview technique
and some excellent samples are mandatory for securing work. Once you have your foot in
the door, though, corporate copy editing can provide a stable -- if occasionally dull --
source of income.

Copy editing projects offered by individuals are another option, and one which can bring
you a more varied body of work and a much more informal attitude toward style guides
and format restriction. But this option carries with it some heavy caveats. Often, copy
editing projects given by individuals amount to ghostwriting without appropriate
compensation, and pay rates can be sketchy as well, ranging from low to nonexistent
(with a promise of "resume experience," maybe.) Although when work is consistent, low
pay isn't necessarily a problem, individuals can rarely guarantee a sufficient volume of
work to ensure your livelihood and a decent career.

Before you accept individual copy editing projects, make sure that you know how much
you'll need to make per hour to make the project financially worthwhile (as well as an
estimate on how many hours the project will take), and don't accept less than that hourly
rate. You may get less work with this approach, but clients won't rip you off either -- an
important consideration for professional copy editors.

Copy editing is a good, low-stress writing job, enjoyable on its own merits or as practice
for other freelance writing goals down the line. You can succeed as a freelance copy
editor if you familiarize yourself with style guides, and have a good grasp of grammar,
spelling, and style usage.

								
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