Episode 56: What Editors Do All Day


Editor is a title that implies a wide range of possible tasks—housed conveniently under the idea of “fixing what’s broke.” This may involve anything from running for coffee to interviewing a SME (subject matter expert, but it’s so much more fun to say by the abbreviation: “smee”).

Since there’s such a wide array of tasks, what I present first is simply a random assignment (random = assignment that looks most impressive in a list). Your mileage may vary.

  • 9:05 AM: Receive SOS email about an article that needs to be proofed and posted. Down coffee.
  • 9:06 AM: Scan article for main ideas. Decide if the format works (structure, coverage). If the format doesn’t work, I may send the article back to the writer for changes.
  • 9:10 AM: Research claims or unfamiliar aspects of the topic. For this, I can often find the info through a Google search or other reference materials that I keep at my desk. If that fails, I call on those with letters after their names or other knowledgeable sources. Hurried work like this means that there’s no time to hit the books myself.
  • 9:17 AM: Glance at the bottom of empty coffee cup and hope it spontaneously refills itself.
  • 9:24 AM: Read the article again for flow and begin coding it for the Internet. At this point, I make comments that I’ll send with the article to the senior editor, who will then present approved changes to the writer. These comments are usually disagreements, suggested rewrites, and things that I find hilarious (just being honest).
  • 9:58 AM: Read the article one last time to check for spelling mistakes, grammar issues, or layout problems.
  • 10:18 AM: Send the article to the senior editor and move on to regularly scheduled programming.

If the assignment is not rushed, I usually space out the second and third readings by hours or days so that I come at it fresh. But sometimes all those red exclamation points on my emails tell me that I’ll have to compress my normal routine.

Beyond this sample assignment (and the complications I left out, including a “more final” version of the article coming after I’ve done my edits), some of the tasks that an editor might perform during the day are as follows:

  • Coordinating copy with a writer, a marketing firm, and management to meet various requirements and expectations about the content, the branding, and the audience
  • Answering or writing queries about copyright information and redistribution
  • Having a serious, ten-minute discussion about a comma rule like some people would discuss stocks
  • Begging and bartering with graphic designers and programmers for help on a potential campaign
  • Being an alpha tester for a new website or navigation scheme in exchange for help from said programmers
  • Measuring the success of content through analytics (not normally an editorial job, but a good skill to have)

And that’s it for my posts about editorial responsibilities. We’ll return to writing tips next week.

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5 thoughts on “Episode 56: What Editors Do All Day

    • Sometimes I think they’d say the same about “content editors and their silly rules.” We’re all one body, though.

  1. That was a very PC way to respond, John :-). The only reason I felt qualified to make such a remark is that I am a software developer by trade.

    Which means I’m a pain in my own asterisk.

    peace|dewde

    • As I mentioned before, editors do have to be very careful how they word things 😀 Just can’t help myself.

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