5 Essential Tools for Editorial Freelancers

These are the five tools that an editor of words cannot work without. (Film and broadcast editors, this is not a post for you.)

A “Kastor” pencil sharpener (in sterling!) is what this dameditor needs.

A computer. That goes without saying. Even if you do find that client who lingers in the days of hard copy, you will need at least a tablet (iPad?) for general business purposes. If you can get by with just a smart phone, kudos. But here are “the five essentials”:

  1. Word — Despite the many “equivalents”, none are totally compatible with Word. If you are working in publishing, not using Word causes all kinds of snafus. If you are working for non-publishing-industry clients, you might find you can get by with Pages or Open Office. Some editors do report success using Word Perfect.
  2. Acrobat — The free Reader version of this PDF manipulator (editor) has all the mark-up tools you’ll need: pencil, shapes, text box, text edits, and stamps. For uncommon tasks such as adding pages or making fillable forms, there’s the Standard version and several inexpensive alternatives.
  3. High speed Internet — PDF proofs of highly graphic chapters can run 8 MB in size. You can’t afford to wait for those downloads. They are likely to time out on dial-up, or run you hundreds of dollars in data fees; and hogging that kind of bandwidth at the cafe is uncool.
  4. Style guide — Online or hard copy; the one that is standard for your client group (market), or CMOS, at least.

    The Canadian Style is maintained by government, and available free, online.
  5. Dictionary — See point 4 above, and point e, below.

Tools that you can get by without, but that make editing easier on your body and on your mind:

    1. Printer — OK, maybe this should be #6 (7?) above. I hardly ever print anything for work, but not having a printer would mean having to leave the house to pick up tiny print orders once every few months. Yikes, the outdoors!
    2. Second screenOr 1 massive screen. Eliminate toggling between programs, and let you view several full-page files at once. Heck, I use 2 “virtual” screens as well as 2 physical ones.
    3. Stylus mouse — This eased my suffering from repetitive motion, decimated my clicks, and released my hand from a permanent clutch-squeeze.
    4. Adjustable “desk” — This lets you stand to work a portion of each day. Also get a good chair, or use a yoga ball, like I do. Bouncing greatly reduces the stress caused by a tough edit. The video shows the desk model I bought because of its versatility (Use it on a couch!), price, and availability. [youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FOe-6_H_yAM&feature[/youtube]
    5. Editing Canadian English — You’ll want this for the charts comparing spelling variations between the big 5 dictionaries and for the chapters on Canadian laws related to publishing.
    6. Camera or scanner — If you ever have to assemble art logs, you’ll need to send samples/ sketches; not all images are available online.
    7. Backup storage — Including automated backups on-site to an external hard drive or into the cloud; you could even use CDs or DVDs if you have a stack still laying around. Use at least one form of backup. No one who has ever lost data will think you’re nuts for using 3 redundant systems. Go: back up the backups.


Now tell me, what tool do you find essential for editing?


*Did you find it annoying that I tried to sneak in an essential before #1 or after #5? How about the whole a-g list!? Are you pained because the asterisk at the beginning of this note has no pair in the body of the text? You might be an editor. Welcome to the fray.

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