Academic Editing: A Specialized Career Path for Copyeditors


At its core, copyediting is about enhancing communication. In a world where information overload is the norm, clear and concise communication is paramount. A well-edited piece of content ensures that the message is conveyed effectively, leaving no room for ambiguity or misunderstanding. Precision in language can make all the difference in capturing and retaining the audience’s attention—for a blog post, marketing campaign, scholarly article, or other written materials.

Whether you're a seasoned academic author seeking to enhance the impact of your work or an aspiring copyeditor eager to delve into the intricacies of the profession or wanting to change your career How to Change Careers in 2024: A Guide, UC San Diego Division of Extended Studies offers a range of copyediting courses to help set you on the right path.

One such course is Copyediting III, which offers invaluable insights into the vital role of copyediting in shaping the landscape of academic communication.

During this course—the final in a four-part class series—students conduct extensive edits on all aspects of two manuscripts, adhere to deadlines, and engage directly with fictional authors of both texts through queries and a cover letter. "What sets this course apart from the other classes in the suite is students are working on one manuscript throughout most of the quarter in different parts, so they get experience actually doing a copy edit,” instructor Cara Jordan said. "It replicates the experience of sending a manuscript back to a client, writing a cover letter, having to explain track changes for them, and having to write queries in the document as if they were writing them to the client themselves. It makes this class so valuable for the students because it gives them as close to replication to a real world experience as you might get in a class of this kind.”

Jordan, who has decades of copyediting experience, loves passing on her expertise transforming complex academic texts into polished masterpieces.

“I think a program like this one helps you to learn the actual mechanics of what copyediting is, because there is so much training required for it that you can't just go from casually editing a newsletter or grading student papers to copyediting and academic book editing,” Jordan said. “In order to perform a copy edit, you need to know things like grammar and style guides; you really need to have those hard skills. This program teaches students what skills they need to have in order to make this into a career if they choose that path.”

During the course, Jordan also shares her copyediting career journey with her students and discusses how to break into academic editing and freelance work and build a sustainable career in the editorial industry. While becoming a successful freelance copyeditor takes time, Jordan said there are many job opportunities today in the field, especially if you carve out a niche for yourself.

"After being behind the scenes for a long time, academic editing is emerging as a niche," said Jordan, who also spent a decade teaching art history. "One reason why is that it's becoming more competitive in terms of academic publishing, so researchers really have to pay attention to their manuscript before it goes through peer review and publishes."

The demand for academic copy editors is also on the rise due to globalization, Jordan said.

“Researchers and academics in other countries where English is not the first language also have to publish in English,” she said. "So we're seeing a lot more researchers from East Asia, for example, who need copyediting assistance. You also have to really smooth out the language and help them with terminology, so that it reads very smoothly as it would if a first language author was writing it.”

The increased demand for copy editors, as well as several successful years in the business, prompted Jordan to launch her own company in 2022 after receiving her copyediting certificate from the Division of Extended Studies in 2018. Before that, she was a solo freelance copy editor for 12 years (before subcontracting work out), specializing in academia and the arts. Her clientele included various universities, private individuals, museums, nonprofit organizations, and businesses. She also held roles as a managing editor at an academic journal, in-house editor for an artist-publisher, and contractor at Meta (formerly Facebook, Inc.).

“The Division of Extended Studies program really did help me become a lot more organized and professional; there were a lot fewer resources out there at that point than there are today about how to start and run the freelance business," she said.

Armed with a Ph.D. in art history and her UC San Diego Extended Studies copyediting certificate, Jordan embarked on an unconventional journey, forging a unique path into the world of academic editing and copyediting. This endeavor blossomed from a mere side hustle into Flatpage, an esteemed editorial agency and publishing house. Within Flatpage, Jordan, who co-founded the company, collaborates with a dedicated team of editors, each specializing in diverse facets of academic and arts writing. The team works with nonfiction authors, including academics, artists, nonprofits, and businesses.

Jordan also recently co-edited the book The Art of Academic Editing: A Guide for Authors and Editors (Flatpage, 2024), a guide to the different types of academic editorial services and when they happen in the life cycle of a scholarly text. The chapters were written by other editors, who explain the nuts and bolts of how to perform their respective services and how they broke into the industry themselves.

Flatpage’s main clientele is academic but the company provides several other services in addition to copyediting. Jordan and her Flatpage team also work with museums, arts organizations, and philanthropies. The agency receives manuscripts and written copy for a wide range of topics, from anthropology about tribes in Oceana to medical history to the history of Japan. Most recently, Jordan and her team copyedited the catalog for The Venice Biennale, a prominent international cultural exhibition hosted annually in Venice, Italy by the Biennale Foundation.

Jordan said one of the coolest projects she has worked on in her career was working with Meta’s Open Arts Department, which commissioned all the artwork for the tech giant’s campuses around the world. It was there that she had the opportunity to edit digital materials for Meta’s object labels for the artworks in the company’s collection, as well as materials for the company’s fun and interactive employee workshops.

For Jordan, she couldn't imagine doing anything else besides managing an editorial agency and publishing house.

“I'm more of a details person. And I think in academia, there's a lot of people who struggle with writing and to just get the ideas on the page,” she said. “I feel like I’m contributing to something meaningful. I'm really expressing my talents through copyediting in a way that I could never do as an academic writer. And I’m able to support writers in a way that helps their career and helps them move forward and continue to do great things in the world.”

“I feel like I've found my path.”

Posted: 5/16/2024 7:30:00 AM with 0 comments

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