According to Royal Roads University, the role and responsibilities of an editor generally include checking written works for a variety of mistakes before they can be published. These mistakes may include typographical and grammatical errors, punctuation, capitalization, or spelling errors, redundancy, sloppy transitions, obscure vocabulary, unsuitable jargon, and inaccurate facts. An editor may also review the format and technical aspects of a work (such as graph and table styles, the use of underlines, italics, and boldface, or labels and captions). Usually editors are focused in a certain type of editing, like acquisitions editing, developmental editing, copyediting, fact-checking, page design, proofreading, information design, etc. (editorsforum.org). Some editors work for book publishing companies, others for newspapers, magazines, or other print media companies.
Writers and Artists, a self-publishing company located in London, addresses book editors in particular. As quoted from the website, “Book editors face the difficulty that if well done, their job is absolutely invisible; the author’s meaning shines through and the reader is never exposed to the stylistic problems that got in the way in the original manuscript.” An editor’s job, then—especially a book editor’s job—is to help the author present his or her writing properly. The editor’s job is not to change the content or purpose of the written work; rather, it is simply to make it as appropriate, understandable, and natural to read as possible.
As for magazine editors, there are many different levels of editing positions. The editor-in-chief is the leading editor and overseer, handling final decisions about what is actually published and ultimately responsible for “the magazine’s voice and focus.” The managing editor leads “the production of the magazine,” managing the editors beneath him or her, assigning duties, frequently writing a bit for each issue, and completing “tasks such as researching and interviewing.” Managing editors report to their editor-in-chief. The associate editor is an “entry-level” magazine editor who completes more prosaic tasks such as “fact-checking, minor editing, and suggesting article ideas.” The contributing editor, or editor-at-large, is commonly a freelance or staff writer who writes articles but is responsible for some editing. Of course, the number of editors depends upon the size and type of magazine (wisegeek.org).
There are also web editors. “The Web Editor is responsible for the ongoing management of a web site and for maintaining its editorial style and tone, its quality and consistency, and its navigation structure” (creativeskillset.org). Web editors are responsible for all aspects of the site, including “technical, creative, and editorial,” and for this reason often work with web developers and designers.
Overall, a good editor is detailed, motivated, organized, and enthusiastic. He or she must be able to work well under pressure, meet deadlines, prioritize, communicate well verbally and in written form, and be able “to combine creative and technical thinking” (creativeskillset.org). The role of an editor varies somewhat depending on that editor’s specific position or field, but in general, an editor audits written material, so that the finished product is the best it can be when published.
Royal Roads University webpage
Editor’s Forum, Editorial Services Guide
Writers and Artists article
Wise Geek webpage
Creative Skillset Interactive Media webpage