Is professional editing & proofreading training worth it, or can you learn for free?

What’s the point of professional editing and proofreading training if you can learn almost anything for free online? Does it matter if your editor has qualifications or is a member of a professional organization? I’ll share my training journey with you and some of my favourite free and paid training resources.

Skip to the resources! (Don’t you hate it when recipe blogs don’t let you do that?)

  1. Looking everything up
  2. Starting out
  3. Joining the CIEP
  4. Benefits of professional training
  5. Learn for free
  6. Professional training
  7. What do you think?

Looking everything up

Back in 2019 when a friend asked me to help with proofreading and editing for their science lab, I had no relevant qualifications beyond teaching. They didn’t mind; English is my first language and they wanted me to check for their nemeses – the dreaded articles a and the.

Probably every school report I ever had said conscientious on it (well, maybe not French or that one Chemistry teacher). So I looked EVERYTHING up. Should that be a hyphen or a dash? Does that sentence need a comma? Gγ-type-dependent-thingummy-what-now? And this was before we even had internet in the house!

BitmoJo thinking about editing and proofreading.

Starting out

I started editing and proofreading before I was qualified, but for friends and clients who really didn’t mind. I studied hard, scouring the internet for high-quality free resources, and only took on projects I knew I could do well. But over time, I felt this wasn’t enough to progress in the direction I wanted. I had great feedback from clients, which encouraged me to level up. In another post I talk about starting my own business.

Joining the CIEP

I decided to join the Chartered Institute of Editing and Proofreading (CIEP). Erring on the side of caution and starting with the level 2 copyediting course seemed sensible, but I just couldn’t afford it – I’d been doing budget jobs, and everything is a lot in Sri Lankan Rupees. I had to invest in the course I knew I’d get the most out of.

I took a gamble and started Copyediting 3, knowing it would take me longer than the estimated 35 hours! But I felt like a complete fraud attempting to punch above my weight. Was it a challenging course? Yes. Did I have a confidence wobble and nearly quit? Also yes.

Joanne studying for her editorial assignments.

Benefits of professional training

Professional training helps build trust with my clients. It indicates to clients that I’m serious about doing a professional job. I feel more confident in my own skills and learned new ones. And as an added bonus, colleagues are more likely to refer work to people whose skills they trust.

Joining a professional organization has already been worth it for me. Here’s what I love about the CIEP:

📗 Course tutors give excellent, detailed feedback. I had a fantastic tutor, and getting their professional opinion and advice on my work was brilliant!
📗 Assessments cover a wide range of areas so you can identify your strengths and weaknesses. Misplaced modifiers, I’m looking for you …
📗 Monthly virtual meetings with other editors in my half of the world.
📗 A wealth of online resources from forums to factsheets.
When I found out I passed my copyediting course, I was so relieved and grateful to my course tutor for their expert feedback! It took me a while to feel courageous enough to post about it on LinkedIn, but that’s where some of the content in this blog post is from. You can see my original LinkedIn post here.

Learn for free

I struggled to find decent free training, but my favourite grammar refresher was 100% Khan Academy Grammar. User-friendly explanations with multiple-choice questions.

Scribber has a wealth of resources in the Scribber Knowledge Base and only some is specific to academic writing. If you like taking notes and underlining things in different colours, like me, check it out.

Here’s one of the best and most readable guides I’ve read about commas from the UNC Writing Center. World History Encyclopedia recommends it to all their volunteer writers, so it must be good!

If you’re getting started in editing, definitely check out the early seasons of The Editing Podcast.

You can find my favourite free editing tools in my previous blog post.

You can learn a lot from reading the blogs of experienced editors you admire – I know I do! There are too many to mention, but I’d love to hear your favourites.

Professional training

I’ve done a lot of on-the-job learning with World History Encyclopedia and Ink & Insights, but the paid courses I invested in were really worth it for me and my business. There are other professional bodies around the world that I’ve heard good things about, but I can only recommend what I’ve tried. Here are my top three:

Louise Harnby, Switching to Fiction, focusing on line editing. Delightful.

The Chartered Institute of Editing and Proofreading. Members receive a discount on CIEP courses.

Tiffany Yates Martin’s range of Fox Print Editorial courses are aimed at writers but excellent for newer editors or editors venturing into developmental editing.

What do you think?

So there you go! There are lots of different pathways into editing and proofreading as a career, and not all of them involve a master’s degree in English literature and creative writing. You can play to your strengths.

Joanne with a question mark above her head.

Published by Joanne Taylor

I help fiction and mythology authors with developmental feedback, editing, and proofreading. Detail-orientated and thoughtful editing for a book your readers can't stop thinking about.

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