Why I Got Fired From My First Editing Job

Spoiler: Editing is its own craft, not to be confused with writing.

Three months ago, a family acquaintance reached out to me on LinkedIn. Her company was looking for an English Copy Editor, and I didn’t hesitate to throw my hat in the ring.

Two weeks and one writing test later, I got the job!

My qualifications?
A one-year stint as a Technical Writer and some brief experience editing my friends’ grad school applications.

Let’s explore why it didn’t work out.

Editing is not a job for perfectionists.

Like most perfectionists, I write a sentence, make some edits, write some more, and then become frustrated and take a break. I have never submitted a “rough draft” in my entire life. This paragraph alone took me five minutes to write and five more minutes to edit.

Perfectionist tendencies bleed into every aspect of a perfectionists’ life. I hold every piece of writing to an incredibly high standard, and it takes me hours to rework a paragraph. Last week, I spent twenty minutes browsing through a thesaurus searching for a slightly better word for “better”.

If you’re never satisfied with your writing, how do you expect to be satisfied with someone else's?

A slow editor is a bad editor.

Unlike professional writers, professional editors are expected to be quick, concise, and great at meeting deadlines. They should be able to whip up a comment and restructure a sentence in less time than it takes an amateur editor to re-read their edits.

As a slow writer who struggles with perfectionism, I should have known that I’d be a slow editor. I just didn’t know how slow.

For my first project, I was given four hours to edit sixteen pages of text written by a non-native English speaker. Not only did I miss the deadline, but I barely got to the thirteenth page. I spent half of the time editing the original document and the other half editing my edits!

In my defense, the entire document probably should have been returned to the writer and rewritten by a native English speaker. A qualified editor would have known this. Unfortunately, my lack of experience led me to believe that the document could be “saved” with a heavy edit, and I ended up doing everyone a disservice.

Nobody wants to work with an editor who can’t meet tight deadlines.

It’s always hard to estimate how long an editing job should take, so tight turnarounds are just part of the business.

Editing is different than writing.

Most editors are good writers, but that doesn’t mean that the reverse is true. Editing, like writing, is a unique craft that takes immense practice and dedication. Great writing skills do not directly translate into great editing skills.

When I applied for the copy editor role, I made the mistake of inflating my editing skills simply because people told me I was a good writer.
I paid for this — literally.

Editors must know the nitty-gritty details of a language inside and out. Overlooking a spelling error or a dangling modifier won’t kill a writer, but it can tank an editor.

If you’ve never formally studied the language and the editing process, don’t assume that you’ll be an effective editor.

At the end of the day, I’m glad I took the job. Despite being ghosted by the company, I gained endless respect for editors, and I also learned the importance of being 100% transparent during the hiring process. There’s no point in exaggerating your skills if you can’t back them up on the job. Be honest with yourself, always.

An immigrant with a salty sense of humor. Science --> Tech. Writing for fun!

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