Professional Editorial Standards

NEW: Editors Canada releases Professional Editorial Standards 2024

At its 2023 annual general meeting, Editors Canada members voted to adopt a revised edition of Professional Editorial Standards. The 2024 edition is now available and has important additions and expansions, including new material on audience considerations, legal considerations, ethical responsibilities, conscious language, fiction editing and more. The Standards inform professional development, hiring decisions, educational and training curricula, professional certification and much more, and they provide a framework of principles and practices that are crucial to a successful career in editing.

Download Professional Editorial Standards 2024 for free now.

Professional Editorial Standards 2024 contents


What is editing?

Editing involves carefully reviewing, correcting and improving material and suggesting changes to help optimize the content, language, style and design for its audience, medium and purpose.

The editor must skilfully and tactfully balance the interests of the client or the owner of the material and, ultimately, the interests of the intended audience.

The editor can also be part of a team that guides a work from a first version to the end product and must therefore collaborate effectively with all team members.

What are professional editorial Standards?

The 2009 version of Professional Editorial Standards (PES) defined the Standards as “the knowledge, skills, and practices most commonly required for editing English-language material.” The Standards are statements about levels of performance that editors are expected to demonstrate. They clarify what is expected of Canadian editors and define the criteria against which their knowledge, skills and practice can be measured. Editors who meet these Standards are able to do a professional job with minimal supervision.

Why have professional Standards?

Several groups use the Standards.

Editors use the Standards to do the following:

  • better understand the skills and knowledge they are expected to demonstrate
  • support their own continuing education and professional development
  • explain what editing is and what editors do
  • define best practices for doing their work

Employers use the Standards to do the following:

  • know what to expect from the editors they hire
  • develop job descriptions
  • create performance evaluation tools

Clients use the Standards to do the following:

  • know what to expect from the editors they hire
  • understand and negotiate editors’ services

Educators use the Standards to do the following:

  • develop training courses and programs for editing

Editors Canada uses the Standards to do the following:

  • develop material for professional certification
  • explain what editors should do when performing various stages of editing
  • increase awareness of the value of editing
  • provide products and services to editors throughout their careers
  • offer publications, webinars and presentations on editing
  • support and advance excellence in editing and the interests of editors

Does PES cover the entire content creation process?

No. PES covers the four stages of editing that begin when the content appears in its first iteration at structural editing and ends in its last iteration at proofreading:

  • structural editing
  • stylistic editing
  • copy editing
  • proofreading

Part A covers the fundamentals of editing, which all professional editors are expected to understand and demonstrate, no matter which stages they work on. Parts B through E cover the knowledge, skills and practices required at each stage. The Standards do not cover related work, such as rewriting, indexing and localization. These are described briefly in the Appendix.

Does PES describe all types of editing?

No. Editors work on many subjects and types of materials that require specialized knowledge and skills. For example, fiction editors must understand character development and story arcs, editors of speeches must be sensitive to rhythm and attention span, and website editors need to be familiar with search engine optimization (SEO) algorithms.

Certain editing jobs often require familiarity with more than one of the Standards at different stages of editing. Plain language editing, for example, might include a mix of structural editing (improving organization and content) and stylistic editing (clarifying meaning). PES does not try to capture all standards that all editors follow all the time. Instead, it captures the core Standards – those most commonly required.

Does PES focus on traditional print material?

No. PES covers the core Standards that all Canadian editors follow, regardless of the type of material they work on or how they edit.

Does every editor use the same terminology?

No. In our quickly evolving field, people who edit use a broad range of terms to describe what they do, the material they work on and who creates that material.

Error correction rates

Errors can occur at each stage of editing. There is no standard for acceptable error rates in editing. An error correction rate is the percentage of errors in a document that the editor has caught. Acceptable error correction rates have been proposed but have not yet been supported by research.

No editor’s work is perfect, and perfection should be the goal but should never be the expectation, for the editor or for the material. Effective editorial processes function to minimize the percentage of errors missed in the process as a wholeby having multiple editorial reviews, preferably conducted by different editors (because editors are less likely to catch their own errors than those of other people). Each editor checks the work of previous editors while performing their own editorial functions.

Productivity rates

Editors work at varying productivity rates. Those rates do not reflect how professional the editor’s work is. Productivity rates are affected by so many variables that they are effectively meaningless. Those variables include the nature of the document, the editorial budget, the amount of time available to do the editing, the tools used for editing, the stage of editing and specific tasks requested, the work that has already been done and the quality of the work.

Most editors are aware of their productivity rates for standard tasks (such as a generic copy edit or proofread). That information is useful in estimating how long it will take that editor to do a specific task, but it is not related to their skill or professionalism.

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