Professional Editorial Standards

NEW: Editors Canada members vote to approve the revised Professional Editorial Standards

At its 2023 annual general meeting, Editors Canada members voted to adopt a revised edition of Professional Editorial Standards. The approved version is currently being edited and proofread for publication. We anticipate the final version will be ready and available in early 2024.

An advance version of the revised Professional Editorial Standards is available to all members. Please visit the members’ area to download the PDF.

Please note: The  advance version of the revised Professional Editorial Standards document cannot be copied, distributed, adapted or translated without written consent from Editors Canada.

Updated: October 4, 2023

Professional Editorial Standards, 2016 edition


What is editing?

Editing involves carefully reviewing material before it is published and suggesting or making changes to correct or improve it. The goal of editing is to ensure that the material is consistent and correct and that its content, language, style, and design suit its purpose and meet the needs of its audience.

The editor is an intermediary who must skilfully and tactfully balance the interests of those who have commissioned the work and developed the material and, ultimately, the intended audience(s). The editor is also part of a team that guides a work through its various stages from creation to publication and must be familiar with, and respectful of, the contributions of others. The editor must collaborate effectively with all team members.

What are professional editorial standards?

Professional Editorial Standards (PES) is a vital document for editors in Canada and for the editing profession. The 2009 version of PES defined the standards as “the knowledge, skills, and practices most commonly required for editing English-language material.” The standards articulated in PES are statements about levels of performance that editors aspire to achieve. 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 minimum supervision.

Why have professional standards?

The standards defined in PES are used by …

Editors to: 
  • better understand the range of skills and knowledge they should aspire to
  • support their own continuing education and professional development
  • explain what editing is and what editors do
  • define best practices for doing their work
Employers to:
  • know what to expect from the editors they hire
  • develop job descriptions
  • create performance evaluation tools
Clients to:
  • know what to expect from the editors they hire
  • understand and negotiate editors’ services
Educators to:
  • develop editing training courses and programs
Editors Canada to:
  • develop and maintain 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
  • design material, seminars, and courses on editing
  • support and advance the interests of editors and excellence in editing

Does PES cover the entire publishing process?

No. PES covers the four stages of editing that begin when the material is more or less complete and end when it’s ready for publication:

  • structural editing
  • stylistic editing
  • copy editing
  • proofreading

Part A covers the knowledge and practices required of all professional editors, no matter which stages they work on. Parts B through E cover the skills required at each stage.

The standards do not cover other publication stages or tasks, such as writing, developmental editing, indexing, translation, marketing or project management.

Does PES describe all types of editing? 

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

Certain editing jobs often comprise a bundle of 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—the standards most commonly required.

Does PES focus on traditional print publishing?

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 the creators of the original work. 

These standards were developed by the Editors Canada professional standards task force. PES was adopted by the membership on October 1, 2016, and took effect on January 1, 2017. Comments and suggestions should be addressed to:

Editors Canada
2967 Dundas Street West, #1449
Toronto, Ontario M6P 1Z2

Copyright © 2017 Editors’ Association of Canada/Association Canadienne des Réviseurs

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