What Do Writers and Editors Do?
Learn About the Salaries, Required Skills, & More
Writers and editors are responsible for producing the content we read in newspapers, books, magazines, and online, as well as what we hear when we watch a movie, television show, radio program, podcast, or commercial. Some people who work in this field put together the documentation that comes with the products we buy.
Writers and authors create content for print and online media, television, movies, and radio. Technical writers specialize in producing materials such as instruction manuals and documentation for computers, hardware, household appliances, consumer electronics, and cars. Editors evaluate and select content for publication in print media and online. They also assign topics to writers.
Writer or Editor Duties & Responsibilities
This job generally requires the ability to do the following work:
- Create original works such as prose, poetry, song lyrics, or plays.
- Research writing topics.
- Revise, rewrite, or edit articles or scripts.
- Prepare advertising copy.
- Market work to publishers, advertising agencies, public relations firms, and publication enterprises.
- Review, rewrite, and edit the work of writers.
- Offer comments to improve the work.
- Suggest possible titles.
Careers as writers or editors cover a broad range of professional fields and responsibilities. Being a writer can range from producing advertising copy to working as a newspaper reporter to writing creatively as a novelist, screenwriter, or poet. There sometimes is an overlap between these professions. Aspiring novelists and screenwriters might work in advertising to earn a living while trying to write and sell their novel or screenplay. Journalists may find success in writing nonfiction books based on subject matters they have covered. Possibilities and combinations are endless, but they all begin by doing good research and stringing together words in a way that captivates readers.
Editors often have experience as writers and might also work as writers themselves, but they have found a niche for themselves in helping to improve others’ works. While proofreading is a part of being an editor, it is important to understand that it really is only a small part. Good editors need to be able to identify inconsistencies in the works of writers and find ways to improve the prose.
Writer or Editor Salary
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics tracks pay for writers and editors separately, though their incomes are similar. Pay for writers is:
- Median Annual Salary: $62,170 ($29.89/hour)
- Top 10% Annual Salary: $121,670 ($58.49/hour)
- Bottom 10% Annual Salary: $31,700 ($15.24/hour)
Pay for editors is:
- Median Annual Salary: $59,480 ($28.59/hour)
- Top 10% Annual Salary: $117,810 ($56.64/hour)
- Bottom 10% Annual Salary: $31,500 ($15.14/hour)
Education, Training, & Certification
A bachelor’s degree generally is expected in any field that hires writers or editors. Advanced degrees can make candidates more competitive in fields such as advertising or marketing.
- Education: A writer or editor can be successful by earning bachelor’s degrees in several areas, such as English, communications, journalism, and more. In terms of careers, there often is an overlap. For example, public relations firms often hire people with backgrounds in journalism. Technical writers generally need to have majored or minored in the technical field they are writing about.
- Training: Many professions related to writing or editing provide on-the-job training or internships where experience can be gained.
Writer or Editor Skills & Competencies
In addition to experience writing and a mastery of how to string words together, there are some general skills writers and editors should possess.
- Creativity: This is a given for creative writing, but even fact-based writing needs a creative mind behind it to decide the best way to present the story to readers and to use language that engages an audience.
- Grammar and syntax: Good writing is clear, grammatically correct, and flows well.
- Curiosity: Good writing is based on thorough research into the topic being written about. This means good writers need a desire to dig into topics through research to make the writing as accurate and as detailed as possible.
- Thick skin: Writing is a process that often involves multiple drafts, and early drafts typically are marked up heavily with questions and constructive criticism. Good writers need to take criticism well and not get too attached to early drafts.
Job opportunities for writers are projected to grow by about 8% for the decade ending in 2026, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. This is slightly better than the 7% growth projected for all occupations and significantly better than the 1% decline projected for editors.
The decline for editors is projected because of declines in the news industry and the projected losses of editing jobs at newspapers and magazines.
Where and how writers or editors work varies dramatically depending on the nature of the work. Writers may seek solitude while writing, and this can mean working in enclosed offices, from home, or any comfortable environment where they can take a laptop and get their work done. Some professions, such as advertising, still need writers to be available for immediate feedback, so they are more likely to require writers to work from offices. Editors also can work in solitude, but since they often are collaborating with writers, they also are more likely to in an office setting.
This depends greatly on the specific profession. Journalists can work at all hours, seven days per week, whether they are reporters who write stories or the editors who review those stories. Marketing, public relations, or advertising jobs are more likely to follow standard business schedules. Those who work independently often have schedules dictated by deadlines.
How to Get the Job
Resumes for writers and editors differ from other occupations. Create a resume that highlights your professional writing experience. If you're seeking a job as an editor, tailor your resume and cover letter a bit differently than those for a writer.
More than just an introduction, a cover letter serves as an example of your work. Take great care.
Comparing Similar Jobs
People interested in writing or editing also might consider one of the following career paths, listed with median annual salaries: