Ten Dangers of Being an Editor (or Proofreader)

messy shelves



Since I trained as an editor I’ve noticed that there are a few dangers associated with the profession. Some are serious, some not so much… but if you are thinking of training as an editor forewarned is forearmed…

messy shelves

  1. You have too many books.

There are reference books, copies of books you’ve worked on (if you are lucky), and just… books. You end up justifying them for so many reasons – you need to keep abreast of your chosen genres/subjects, you need to do some background research on companies you quite fancy working for, you need to look at books using different point of views (POVs), and there’s the ‘Oh, it just fell into my hand in the bookstore as I was passing’ books. You… just… need… books.

Why is it a danger you ask? Well. You try standing on one leg trying to reach a certain book at the top of an over-crowded bookcase, often while avoiding a pile of shelf-less books, without doing yourself mischief. And avoiding piles of books strewn across the floor can be a major obstacle to health and safety.

  1. You become a geek and a nerd in the eyes of others.

Working on certain types of book can be seriously dangerous to any street-cred you may have once had. Apart from becoming something of a subject specialist, you can suddenly find yourself enthusing over minute details of a subject while your friends’ eyes glaze over. For example, when I started working on books about ferries I would find myself hyper tuned-in to any mention of a cruise ship or ferry company… I could name that ship’s previous incarnation at 100 paces. It’s not like your usual hobbyist being able to reel off workshops that produced Iovi Conservatori coins in the reign of Licinius (erm, yes, I could do that on occasion), this is more in-depth nerdism as you immerse yourself for weeks, every day, as you work on a book.

  1. Everyone thinks you’re loaded.

You meet someone new, they ask what you do for a living, you tell them you’re an editor… that someone then starts seeing stars in their eyes. They either think you’re one of the lucky ones that work on high-profile celebrity tomes, or they think you’re akin to Anna Wintour. When you tell them what you actually do for a living, and that no, you’re not rolling in readies, eyes start to glaze over. I also occasionally get the same response I used to get when I explained I was an indexer (something I now don’t bother admitting to as I was sick of explaining myself every time) – ‘Oh, I thought computers did that’.

  1. Everyone thinks you’re the grammar police.

When people find out you’re an editor jokes ensue about minding Ps and Qs and being careful around you. Or things go the other way and every typo you make in a hasty post or a tweet becomes something of an amusement to be quickly jumped upon. Once you are an editor things will never be the same again. Editors don’t usually take themselves too seriously, and know when to switch off. No-one wants to be at work all the time, so why on earth would an editor pick fault when they’re not at work? Now if you’re going to pay us, that’s another matter.

  1. Everyone thinks you’re on-call 24/7.

Would you just have a look at this?

Oh, I’ve written something, perhaps you could…

It won’t take long

I know you love this kind of thing so I thought you could just…

When you are an editor, clients, friends and family suddenly forget the reasons many of us become freelance… to preserve that work/life balance. Emails late at night, clients wanting something done really quickly because a deadline is looming and they forgot something, friends offering you their writing ‘to practice on’… the list goes on. It’s a very real danger: it can lead to burn-out at worst and resentment at best. Being an editor you have to learn to say no.

erm no

Then there are the smaller dangers:

  1. Working on cookery books makes you hungry.
  2. Working on exercise books doesn’t make you want to exercise.
  3. Work breaks often end up meaning housework, food shopping or other boring mundane stuff.
  4. When clients’ timescales slip you end up working all hours to make up the lost time.
  5. When you have gaps in your schedule it is very, very easy to treat yourself to a series binge of RuPaul’s Drag Race, House, or whatever your favourite catch-up tv show of the moment is.


So there you go… what dangers have I missed? Go on, tell me!



3 Comments on “Ten Dangers of Being an Editor (or Proofreader)

  1. Another danger: not getting paid on time and the rent is due. Yours are a bit more lighthearted, though, as usual. 🙂

  2. Pingback: Weekly translation favorites (Aug 21-27)

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