Tips for choosing an editor

by | Working with editors

How do I choose an editor?

The process for choosing an editor is no different to the process for selecting any other supplier with specific expertise:

  • an accountant (to conduct an audit)
  • a researcher (to conduct market research)
  • a builder (to build a house).

The main steps are outlined below and assume you already have a comprehensive brief. (If you need help with creating a brief see How do I brief an editor?) It’s a good idea to start the process well ahead of time.

Conduct desk research

Develop a shortlist (more than three because good editors are busy and may not be available) through desk/online research comparing the qualifications and experience of editors with relevant skills. The best place to start is the professional organisation for editors in your country. In Australia (and New Zealand) this is IPEd – the Institute of Professional Editors. In the UK it is the Chartered Institute of Editing and Proofreading (CIEP), formerly known as the Society for Editors and Proofreaders (SfEP). The Canadian organisation is Editors Canada and in the US it is ACES: The Society for Editing

Each organisation has a directory listing the members and their accreditation or professional status. The IPEd directory can be searched by location, type of document, subject specialty and accreditation status. In Australia, accredited editors have demonstrated their professional competence, skills, knowledge and understanding of editing standards by passing the IPEd accreditation exam; they must also adhere to IPED’s Australian standards for editing practice.

Hourly rates

Simply comparing hourly rates when choosing an editor for a project can be misleading. (For more about this see The cost of editing and proofreading.) An experienced editor with relevant qualifications and accreditation will generally complete a project in less time and to a higher standard than someone with limited experience and training.

Beware ‘hobby editors’ – people who claim to be editors because they ‘like reading’ or were ‘good at English at school’ or ‘have an eye for detail’. Would you employ someone as your accountant because they were ‘good at maths’? In Australia, IPEd conducts rigorous examinations (80% required to pass) to assess the skills and knowledge of editors before awarding the qualification of ‘accredited editor’. This qualification must be renewed every five years through evidence of continuing professional development.

You will get a more accurate gauge of cost for the service if you compare quotes for the total project, and ensure that you are comparing ‘apples with apples’. Evaluate the services outlined in the quote, and ensure they encompass everything you need. Seek clarification if necessary.

Make contact

Contact the shortlisted editors to ascertain who is available for the time you will need them. Be as accurate as possible with timelines and critical deadlines (eg, the date the document will be available, date required for review, date of publication/release).

Provide a brief to the editors that are available and request a quote. At this point, if the project is confidential, provide an NDA (non-disclosure agreement) for the editor to sign. For an accurate quote most editors will need to inspect the document. If this is not possible then provide a current draft with as much detail about the final document as possible, including page and word counts, number of graphs, images, tables.

Evaluate and compare

As a first step when choosing an editor ensure the quotes cover all the requirements for the project (ie, check the itemised tasks carefully and note any additional services offered). Referring again to the house building analogy: two quotes for renovating a house may be vastly different but closer inspection could reveal one quote did not include an essential stage and/or was based on using inferior materials. If you’re unsure about anything, ask. How many rounds of editing/proofreading does the quote cover? If there are more changes required after the first round of editing are these included in the quote, or will there be an extra charge? Will a style sheet be provided? 

Evaluate (if necessary) the qualifications and experience of the editors who have quoted. Are they members of the editing industry body? What relevant degrees or experience do they have? (This could be a degree or background in a particular field or editing experience in a similar industry.) Do they have tertiary editing qualifications? Formal recognition of their skills through accreditation?

Compare price and delivery timeframes. Does the turnaround time meet your requirements? Do delivery dates allow enough time for your internal review processes? Can the editor accommodate changes if the project schedule is delayed?

Confirm with chosen editor

Confirm agreement (and any amendments) to the quote in writing (email is fine). Also confirm anything that may have been agreed verbally. Advise who the main point of contact will be for any queries that arise during the editing process.


You might also find the following links helpful:

 Note: Costs quoted above are Australian dollars and do not include GST.  


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