Finding an editor

Hugh Farmar

Hugh Farmar

What should you do if you are tasked with finding an editor?

You may not know what to look for or what questions to ask.

Whether you are looking to add editorial capacity to an existing team or hire an editor for the first time, there are certain core skills and experience the editor must have. These are:

  • Native English
  • Love of language
  • Reliability
  • Attention to detail
  • Commercial approach

Also useful are three years’ editing experience in an investment research department, ability to speak a second or third language and writing experience. A financial qualification such as an economics degree or a FINRA or FCA qualification can also help.

These attributes will ensure that the editor understands your need for clean, clear copy delivered to strict deadlines and can hit the ground running.

How to identify these attributes?

Apart from the editor’s CV, you can learn a lot through the fried egg test. Michelin-starred chefs often test interviewees by asking them to fry an egg. This simple task is very revealing of how the chef handles ingredients, heat and kitchen tools such as a frying pan.

The equivalent for editors is the emails they write, their CV and any online presence. These should be free of typos, the meaning should be clear and you should feel they have facility and ease with the language.

If the editor passes the fried egg test, the next step is a timed editorial test of a 10-page research note typical of the kind your department publishes. This will tell you whether the editor has the skills required, can deliver on time and most importantly, can edit the way you want them to.

Deciding your needs

You then need to decide what service level of editing you require and the volumes of research you will need to be edited. The latter will determine how many editors you need and whether you need full or part-time support.

A rough rule of thumb is that each editor working full time can handle comfortably the output of about 10 publishing analysts. Of course this depends on how much each analyst publishes and will vary from firm to firm but it should give you a good starting point.

Volumes can fluctuate by as much as three times from trough to peak during the year. An editor that will comfortably cope with the volumes in the lulls of the year may struggle during the peaks of earnings season and need more support. In addition, the editor’s holidays and sickness have to be covered.

The service level ranges from a very basic proof where the editor checks for typos and grammar and very obvious errors, to substantive rewrites. What you need will depend on the standard of English of your research team. For instance, non-native English speakers typically require more assistance. Not all editors will have experience editing the research of non-native English analysts so it is important to find this out in advance.

Selecting the right solution

The options are hiring an employee, contracting an individual freelancer or using the services of an editing firm, either a specialist or a generalist. Employees are dedicated to your firm, however their editing capacity is fixed and there is a HR overhead. Individual freelancers have the advantage that you only pay for what you use. However, the option is not easily scalable and a replacement has to be found when they move on.

Choosing a specialist financial editing firm gives you the best of all worlds. It gives a dedicated high-quality resource all year round without the HR overhead, while being flexible and scalable.

For more detail, download our white paper – Finding an editor