Technical Copy Editor: The Unsung Hero of the Publishing World

From scientific journals to software documentation, technical copy editors make sure complex information is communicated clearly and accurately.

If you enjoy working with language and have a sharp eye for detail, you may be wondering if a career as a technical copy editor is right for you. Here's what you need to know about what these editors do, and how to get started in the career.

What Do Technical Copy Editors Do?

Technical copy editors improve the clarity and flow of text for various types of documents.

Though they usually do not write the first draft of the content, they are responsible for making sure the final version is free of errors, in line with the organization’s chosen style guide, and easy to read for the document’s target audience.

In some cases, a technical copy editor may also optimize the use of keywords and other search engine optimization (SEO) techniques to improve the ranking of documents in search engine results pages (SERPs).

Unlike many other copy editors, technical copy editors are often responsible for improving accuracy of information, such as fact-checking statistics. They verify that what the author has written makes sense from a technical standpoint.

Academic journals, newspapers, and other print publications were some of the first to adopt copy editing as a way to improve their text before going to print.

The advent of the internet and online media has made the role of the technical copy editor even more important, as the text must be not only free of errors but also easy to read on a screen. 

Now, a number of industries rely on technical copy editors to ensure that their written materials are accurate and error-free. This can include everything from medical journals to technical manuals.

In many cases, a technical copy editor will specialize in a particular field, such as software or engineering.

What Skills Do Technical Copy Editors Need to Have?

Being a technical copy editor calls for a flexible, proactive mentality and a talent for digging into details.

Editing and proofreading skills

First and foremost, a technical copy editor must have excellent editing skills, with a keen eye for detail. You should be able to spot errors in grammar, punctuation, and spelling, follow (and possibly develop) a style guide, and devise ways to improve the readability and structure of text.

As different media have their own specific guidelines, you must also be familiar with different types of copyediting. 

For example, you might proofread a book manuscript for a publisher, or edit a company’s website. In both cases, you’ll need to have a clear grasp of the client’s needs and be able to adjust your editing style accordingly. 

Computer skills

Some basic programming skills may also give you a leg up, as you might need to edit XML, HTML, or CSS code. Familiarity with content management systems (CMS) will allow you to easily make changes to website content. 

At the very least, you’ll need to be comfortable using basic writing and editing software such as Adobe Acrobat and Microsoft Word.

Research skills

Technical copy editors are responsible for making sure information is accurate and up to date before it’s published. This means being able to quickly find and evaluate sources of information.

For example, you’ll need to know how to look for errors in data, or find new data to support an article’s claims.

Interpersonal skills

Your soft skills are also important. independently and be proactive in finding solutions to problems, but they spend much of their time interacting with others.

Many editing projects will involve back-and-forth with the original author and other subject-matter experts, so being able to deliver constructive feedback and work collaboratively is essential.

An appetite for learning

You’ll likely be confronted with technical jargon on a daily basis. Since your role is to make technical concepts understandable and engaging for non-specialists, you’ll need to be confident in your grasp of industry jargon.

You might not know it all when you start your job, but you’ll be expected to put effort into learning it quickly.

How Do You Become a Technical Copy Editor?

Most technical copy editors have at least a bachelor’s degree in a field such as English, journalism, or communications. Many have also completed coursework in a specific field, such as engineering or science. 

Some technical copy editors also have experience as writers, ghostwriters, or journalists. This can be helpful in giving you a better understanding of the challenges writers face. However, it is not essential, as long as you have strong editing skills.

If you’re interested in becoming a technical copy editor, there are a few things you can do to improve your chances of success. First, make sure you have a demonstrably strong command of the English language. 

Second, consider taking a course in copyediting or technical writing. These programs can give you a better understanding of the mechanics of writing and editing, as well as the specific challenges of working with technical documents.

Third, consider volunteering to edit for a local non-profit organization or working as a freelance editor. Experience working with different types of documents will help you learn how to approach the editing process in a range of scenarios, and you’ll grow more familiar with the various style guides organizations use.

You might also want to join a professional organization, such as the American Copy Editors Society, which offers networking and job-search opportunities.

What Are the Benefits of Being a Technical Copy Editor?

A major advantage of becoming a technical copy editor is that it can be tailored to your interests and lifestyle. You can pursue a career as a freelancer, which gives you the opportunity to work from home, or you can work for a publishing company, news organization, or corporation.

The work is often challenging and requires close attention to detail, but it can also be interesting and satisfying.

Technical copy writers often advance by increasing their level of specialization. Or, they may take on additional responsibilities, such as managing a team of writers or developing style guides.

In Summary

Technical copy editing can be a rewarding career for those with a passion for language and a head for detail. By acquiring the necessary skills and experience, you can put yourself on the path to success.

👋 Looking for high quality, engaging content marketing?

1SecondCopy has you covered. Our writer network allows us to offer exceptional value at low prices, starting at just $0.09/word. Your first week includes a 100% money-back guarantee - just fill out a request and we'll deliver within 5 days.

Thanks for reading!

© 2022 1SecondCopy™