Are you a better writer or editor?

I’ve been asked this question in two different job interviews. My answer must be pretty good because in both cases I got the job. I also love the question so much that I use it when I interview co-op students for internship positions.

Are you a better writer or editor?

Even if you’re not preparing for an interview, it’s a good question to ask yourself if you’re a writer, journalist, blogger, editor or if you’re considering getting into the field.

Of course there is no right or wrong answer. And I think that if you’re good at either you must be good at both.

Any good writer knows that the editing process is just as significant as the writing process. You certainly wouldn’t publish your writing without a thorough edit. If you’re good at editing your own writing then you know it’s a process that fixes much more than spelling and grammar. The substantive edit is just as important because it’s where you ensure that your message is clearly communicated in the way you intend. Creative writers, business writers, academic writers, journalists and bloggers all go through this editing process in some form. And if you don’t then you’re not really a good writer.

On the flip side, an editor must be a good writer. A good editor knows first hand what the creative process is like, how a piece of writing is formed and they understand the flow and voice of a piece because they too have gone through the creativity, research and thought processes that are necessary to write something good. An editor who has been a writer understands writing and is better able to either overlook or abide by the rules, as needed, in ways that strengthen the original piece.

If you’re good at both writing and editing, how do you know which to focus on for your career? I really think it comes to a matter of preference. Which do you enjoy more?

So, you’ve come to the realization that you’d like to make career switch to writing or editing. Now what? Here are some ideas:

1. Put together an online portfolio that showcases your work

2. Apply for volunteer positions. You may be surprised how many non-profit groups are looking for qualified people to help them with editorial and writing projects. These include managing, editing or writing for newsletters, magazines, blogs, websites and social media campaigns.

  • Besides the benefit of helping out a great cause, you’ll also be able to gain experience which you can add to your portfolio and use to help you gain a new job
  • Volunteering will help you ensure you’re really happy with editing or writing before you make a career change
  • You can grow your professional network, and you may meet someone who can help introduce you to your next opportunity

3. Join professional networks

4. Attend professional conferences. Many of the associations listed above have local chapter meetings and host conferences where you can network, learn more about the industry, and craft your skill.

5. Look at job postings. Some may require a college certification (ie. copy editing) or ask to test your skills. If you don’t have the academic requirements and are serious about a career change then see if you can take a course at your local college campus or online. Most jobs will require a professional portfolio, which you’ll have ready if you’ve completed step one above.

6. Apply for job postings if you’re ready. Keep in mind that many employers will be satisfied with your current experience because the fields of writing and editing are so closely linked. Make sure you mention the preparation you’ve done to make this career change and your reasons for the change in your cover letter.

7. Make your own opportunities. Sometimes the perfect job isn’t out there for you to apply to when you need it. If this is the case why not make your own opportunity? If you are an editor who wants to write then what’s stopping you? In the world of self-publishing writing has never been more democratized.

And really, what’s stopping you from editing if you want to? Consider creating your own website, online magazine or even publishing company. Again, with self-publishing becoming easier there is a real need for editors. You can help writers publish through a vehicle of your choosing (especially if you have some funding to back yourself and an entrepreneurial spirit).

It’s corny, but true that any journey starts with a single step.

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