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Career profile: Subeditor

Can you put the punch into headlines as well as the punctuation into paragraphs? Read on to find out if a career as a subeditor could be for you.

A what?

A subeditor works for a print publication or website, checking that articles and pictures are suitable to be published.

On the job

Much of a subeditor’s job involves examining the words – or ‘copy’ – submitted by writers to ensure that the grammar, spelling and punctuation are correct. However, subediting is also more creative than just 'proofreading' - or picking up and changing other people’s mistakes. Subeditors often have to come up with catchy headlines to attract people to read articles, and may also have to rewrite things to fit in with the ‘house style’ of the publication, or make sure they are the right length. Many subeditors also work alongside designers to find pictures to accompany the copy, and lay both out on the page.

This means that subeditors need an excellent command of English and a great eye for detail. They will also need to know the right symbols used to proofread pages,a nd be familiar with desktop publishing and photo-editing software.

Some subeditors need a specialist knowledge of certain subjects like politics or music if they’re working on specific publications, but all subediting jobs require an in-depth knowledge of copyright, libel and other aspects of media law, to ensure that nothing that is published breaks the law. Publications often work to very tight deadlines – particularly on daily newspapers – so subeditors need to be able to handle pressure and work unsocial hours. Working as part of a team with other people including designers and writers means they need great communication skills as well.

Many subeditors work in-house for publishing companies or online organisations, working on either one or a range of titles. Starting salaries begin at around £18,000 but can rise to around £30,000. Experienced subeditors might be able to earn more as freelancers, working on short-term contracts for print publications and websites, and also advertising agencies, businesses and other organisations who are producing printed and online material.

What’s the training like?

Most subeditors have a degree or postgraduate qualification in English or a related subject. The NCTJ also runs specific courses in subediting, which many employers will have expected you to complete.

Like all areas of the media, subediting is very competitive, so doing some work experience or working on your student newspaper or website will really boost your CV. Many subeditors start off as reporters or copywriters before moving into subediting. It’s also essential to learn software packages like InDesign and Photoshop if you don’t know them already.

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