D.J. McPhee
19 December 2023
Posted inTeam Management Post authorD.J. McPhee

Running an English Editing Department

Running an English editing department can be done in many different ways.

The very first question of running an editing department is the most important one. What kind of department are you going to be running? We’ve talked previously about the different types of editing departments you can have, so if you are still unsure about it, we can help you by giving you some advice about it.

In that article we talked about performing the editing before or after acceptance. And we also discussed using an in-house team vs. a team of freelance English editors. But here we’ll be addressing some of the logistics of getting through the editing projects.

While you may have a number of tools at your disposal, from AI to free editing tools, it’s important to keep a few things in mind. First of all, one of the most important abilities that an editor has is their ability to distinguish the nuance of a text. AI tools are fairly notorious for misunderstanding what people want to say.

Hiring English editors for your department

Hiring English editors can feel like an unnecessary expenditure, after all, it’s the science that matters. But communicating that science clearly is very important. Clear and easy to understand English is what will help your authors get their message across. When the language editing is weak, or the text muddied, this can negatively impact the reception of work. Regardless of how sound the science is.

So, if you’re going to be running an English editing department, you need editors. Where do you find them?

English editing services are a good place to start. These services can often allow you access to a lot of editors so you can get a fast turnaround on the work. The downside with this, however, is that the bulk of the money being paid is going to the company and not the editor. This may not seem that important, but it can have a major impact on the quality of the work.

Like any industry, editing has rates that would be considered “fair”, “good”, or “poor”. When companies pay poor wages, it is less likely to attract good editors that are willing to work for the company long term. This leads to increased churn. The more churn in your department, the more time you need to spend training your editors. If you start by establishing a fair rate, you’ll have greater staff retention, and this means that your editors will continue to get better over time.

Using job tools to hire editors

There are dozens, if not hundreds, of companies that provide access to potential employees. There are big companies like LinkedIn and smaller slices of the editing market like Fiverr. You have lots of options for finding possible employees, just make sure that you are aware of what their expectations are (and what you’re willing to provide). Importantly, make sure that those you hire for your editing department are up to the job.

When you’re using these options, make sure that you have expectations in place so that you can find appropriate candidates. A good idea is to start by looking for candidates that are at the very least familiar with the style guide you’re using (more on style guides later). Another option that you can use is an editing test. These are often used instead of interviews. An important note about editing tests is that you shouldn’t make them too long. Remember, editors are doing your editing test for free (this sort of “test edit” is very common in the editing market). So you don’t want to make it so long that an editor will just pass on the project.

Usually, a one-page edit that has a master sheet with correct answers is a fast and effective way to handle this. Importantly, this isn’t always going to find you the best candidate, but it is a good method to start with.

Running an editing department

Once you’ve established the stage in publication that you need your editing team, the next thing to do is to figure out is how to run the day-to-day affairs.

If your English editing team is small, running that department might be quite easy. You may only be using a couple of freelance English editors, which makes management easy. One person should be able to keep track of all the manuscripts being assigned to the team with a spreadsheet. As long as they have email, those documents can be sent out and received easily. In order to save time and money, many companies use a journal management system in order to streamline their operations. These systems drastically reduce the time needed to assign and track manuscripts. They also allow assigning work to editors with the click of a button.

Assigning is one challenging part of the job, but another is keeping track of what English editors have what manuscripts. And even more importantly, for how long.

Running an English editing department on the clock

How long do you give your editors to complete a project? Do you give them a flat turnaround period? Should you instead negotiate every manuscript on a case-by-case basis?

These are very important questions, and they largely relate to whether or not you are facing a time crunch. Part of the benefits of the open access model of academic publishing, is that you can publish quickly. The peer review process can be effectively done quickly. Layout can be handled by your team quickly as well. So barring any unforeseen circumstances, you can get through the publication process in a reasonably short window of time. How much of this timeframe you allot to English editing will depend. In particular, freelance English editors need to have a clear idea of expectations. Unlike an in-house team, they may need to have reliable and established expectations.

In-house English editors vs. freelance English editors

It may sound like an in-house team is a better decision, but the truth is that it depends. What kind of editing team (or combination) you need depends greatly on how much work you have to do. If you are publishing two or three manuscripts a week, hiring an in-house editor might be prohibitively expensive. It could be even worse if the editor doesn’t work out and you have to hire and train another one. Freelance editors are usually much better at handing new projects quickly because they’re often used to working on different projects.

Making sure that you hire editors that have at least a passing familiarity with the style guide you’re using is critical to eliminate unnecessary delays in training.

If you find yourself managing a team of hundreds of freelance English editors, you may want to consider moving away from freelance editors and towards an in-house editing team.

Establishing firm but fair guidelines

Part of running an editing department includes knowing when you need to do what is best for the department. Sometimes, for a number of reasons, you may need to let employees go. Terminating employment is more challenging than ending a freelancer’s contract, but is still not a pleasant experience. It is very important to have a clear sense of what is and is not acceptable levels of editing. Making sure that your editors are providing the expected product within the expected timeframe is very important.

Part of this is your responsibility. If deadlines are too short, you’re not giving editors the time they need to complete work. If the pay is too low then it doesn’t really motivate an editor to do a good job. Respect is a two-way street and is very important for the success of your business. Remember, while you want prospective authors to have a positive opinion of your company, you need prospective employees to have the same feeling.

Make your company one that people want to work for.

D.J. McPhee
19 December 2023
Posted inTeam Management
Post author D.J. McPhee
Why Training Matters
How to Manage Criticism
3 Management Styles for Running a Journal
Managing a Team