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Job Photographs

  • A man is sitting at a table, in an office.  He is looking at some sheets of paper.

    Checking work written by journalists for any errors.

  • Somebody is sitting at a table, reading a dictionary.

    Checking a term in the dictionary.

  • A man is sitting at a desk, in an office.  He is using a computer.  There are some magazines in front of him.

    Writing a small piece for a newspaper.

  • A man is sitting at a desk, in an office.  He is using a computer.  There are two magazines on the desk.

    Laying out an article and photos using computer software.

  • A man is sitting at a desk, using a telephone.

    On the phone, checking when a deadline is due.

  • A man is sitting at a desk, in an office.  He is using a computer.  There are two magazines on the desk.

    Writing a headline.

  • Two men are sitting at a round table.  There is a sheet of paper on the table.  The two men are talking.

    Discussing work with a journalist.

  • A man is removing a piece of paper from a photocopier.

    Printing out an article to check through before publication.

  • Sub-editor

Sub-editor

Introduction

Sub-editors make sure print and online articles are accurate before they are published. They work on publications such as newspapers, magazines and websites. Sub-editors check that copy reads well, doesn't have any spelling or grammar mistakes and fits correctly on a page. They might also write headlines, standfirsts (brief introductions) and photo captions.

Also known as

  • Copy-Editor
  • Desk-Editor

Work Activities

As a Sub-editor, you will make sure that the copy reads well and makes sense, and doesn't have any spelling or grammatical errors. You'll ensure that it follows house style, is the right length for the publication, has no missing or irrelevant content, and doesn't contain unnecessary repetition. You must have an eye for detail!

If the work is too long, you will take out unnecessary or repeated sections and rewrite text, being careful not to lose the original meaning. You'll check that there is nothing that breaks the law or could damage somebody's good reputation without justification.

You might also write headlines - thinking of something original, catchy and maybe witty to attract the reader's attention! You could also write standfirsts (brief introductions which sum up the article or feature) and photo captions.

Apart from checking written content, you will make sure the right articles appear in the correct place on each page of the publication. You might be expected to design and lay out the pages, either by using desktop publishing software or a content management system.

In some cases, you could write small items for the publication. You'll put together regular features, such as tables of sports results or reader competitions.

Sub-editors usually work as part of a team, discussing issues with Journalists, Editors, Designers, marketing and production departments. For example, you might need to talk to Writers to clarify any details you are unsure of.

You will be working to strict deadlines and must work very quickly if there are any last minute stories or items to add to the publication.

In book publishing, you will do a similar job by checking manuscripts. You'll normally deal with larger pieces of work, and might have longer deadlines than those who work in newspapers. However, you can't make big changes to the work without getting approval from their Editor or the Author.

Being able to read, write and speak Welsh may be an advantage when you’re looking for work in Wales.

Personal Qualities and Skills

To become a Sub-editor, you'll need:

  • a love of writing, words and the use of language
  • sound knowledge of grammar, punctuation and spelling
  • an excellent eye for detail
  • to work quickly yet accurately to meet deadlines in a fast-paced environment
  • tact and diplomacy when explaining to Writers why you've made certain changes
  • knowledge of layout and design issues, media law and copyright
  • ICT literacy, including desktop publishing skills

Sub-editors who work on websites might need knowledge of web design software and content management systems. You need writing skills and creativity for rewriting copy and producing things like headlines, photo captions and standfirsts (brief introductions to articles).

Pay and Opportunities

Pay

The pay rates given below are approximate.

  • Starting: £25,000 - £28,000
  • With experience: £30,500 - £37,000
  • Senior Sub-editors earn £41,000 - £45,000

Hours of work

Working hours can include early starts, late finishes, shifts and work at weekends.

Where could I work?

Employers include local, regional and national newspapers and magazines and online publishers. Other employers are local and national government departments and large commercial and industrial companies, where Sub-editors work on materials such as newsletters, websites and company magazines.

It's possible for Sub-editors to find work in towns and cities throughout the UK.

Self-employment

There are opportunities for experienced Sub-editors to work freelance, often specialising in a particular area such as science, finance or sport.

Where are vacancies advertised?

Vacancies are advertised in local, regional and national newspapers. Vacancies also appear on websites such as 'Hold the Front Page' and the 'Press Gazette', and there are specialist job boards such as journalism.co.uk/.

There are specialist recruitment agencies that deal with journalism and publishing.

Social media websites, such as LinkedIn, Twitter or Facebook, are a great way to network, find vacancies and get in contact with possible employers. Make sure that your profile presents you in a professional manner that will appeal to potential employers.

Take a look at our General Information Article 'Finding Work Online'.

It's a good idea to build up a network of relevant contacts, as not all journalism jobs are advertised. Speculative job applications can be useful in this industry.

Entry Routes and Training

Entry routes and training

Most entrants are graduates.The degree subject you choose isn't usually important. However, if you work for a specialist publication, for example, a technical or scientific journal, you might need a related degree.

To work as a Sub-editor for a newspaper, you'll usually need to complete an approved journalism course that includes sub-editing. Some other employers also ask for a journalism (sub-editing) qualification.

The National Council for the Training of Journalists (NCTJ) accredits training courses.

The NCTJ diploma in journalism gives trainee Journalists (including Sub-editors) the knowledge and skills they need for professional entry level work. The diploma allows you to take a specialist option in production journalism (sub-editing).

Brighton Journalist Works runs a 16-week fast-track NCTJ diploma course, plus an NCTJ certificate in sub-editing (7 days full-time).

The NCTJ national qualification in journalism (NQJ) is for trainees with at least 18 months' employment on a newspaper or with a news agency. The NQJ is available in four areas of journalism, including sub-editing.

Training in relevant skills is also available from organisations such as:

  • the Publishing Training Centre (PTC)
  • the London School of Publishing (LSP)
  • the Professional Publishers Association (PPA)

A great way to get into this career is through an internship. Take a look at our information article 'Internships', for more details.

Work Experience

Some Sub-Editors are experienced Reporters. Traditionally, this was a common entry route. However, many people now start their careers by specialising in sub-editing.

For certain areas of work, you might need specialist knowledge and qualifications, for example, in law, health and science publishing.

If you would like some training, then NCTJ offer a certificate in the essentials of sub-editing. The course topics include:

  • checking and rewriting
  • writing headings
  • the use of pictures
  • the basics of layout
  • checking the final product

Check the website for dates and availability.

Other courses could be available in your area.

Progression

You might begin your sub-editing career by working on text only and then be given responsibility for design and layout issues. With experience of writing headlines, standfirsts and captions, you could move into features writing.

Career progression is into chief Sub-editing or Production Editor positions. Some Sub-editors go freelance.

Qualifications

While the minimum qualifications for entry are 5 GCSEs (A*-C or 9-4) or equivalent, including English, it is rare to enter at this level.

It is possible to enter some National Council for the Training of Journalists (NCTJ) accredited courses with 2 A levels; however, most entrants are graduates.

For entry to a degree course in any subject, the usual minimum requirement is:

  • 2/3 A levels
  • 5 GCSEs at grade C/4 or above

However, entry requirements vary considerably among courses. Equivalent qualifications, such as BTEC Level 3 qualifications and the International Baccalaureate Diploma, might be acceptable for entry - please check college/university websites very carefully.

Some universities accept the Welsh Baccalaureate as equivalent to 1 A-level.

Adult Opportunities

Skills/experience

Some Sub-editors are experienced reporters. Traditionally, this was a common entry route. However, many people now start their careers by specialising in sub-editing.

For certain areas of work, you might need specialist knowledge and qualifications, for example, in law, health and science publishing.

Courses

If you don't have the qualifications you usually need to enter a degree course, you might be able to start one after completing a college or university Access course, such as Access to Journalism. You don't usually need any qualifications to start an Access course, but you should check individual course details.

There are fast-track (usually 18-22 week) courses in the National Council for the Training of Journalists (NCTJ) Diploma in Journalism (which includes a sub-editing option). To enter, you might need a degree or A levels; some course providers accept people without these qualifications if they have journalism experience or an employer's sponsorship.

Distance learning

The NCTJ offers its Diploma in Journalism by distance learning.

The Publishing Training Centre (PTC) runs distance learning courses in relevant skills, including proofreading, copy-editing and picture research. Editorial Training runs a proofreading course by distance learning.

Sponsorship

Sponsorship is available from the Journalism Diversity Fund and the George Viner Memorial Fund Trust for people from ethnically and socially diverse backgrounds.

Other sponsorship is available from:

  • Arts and Humanities Research Council.
  • BBC Journalism Trainee Scheme.
  • Guardian Media Group, Scott Trust.

Further Information

Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC)

Email: enquiries@ahrc.ac.uk

Website: www.ahrc.ac.uk

Publishing Training Centre (PTC)

Email: publishing.training@bookhouse.co.uk

Website: www.train4publishing.co.uk

National Council for the Training of Journalists (NCTJ)

Email: info@nctj.com

Website: www.nctj.com

The National Union of Journalists (NUJ)

Tel: 020 78433700

Email: info@nuj.org.uk

Website: www.nuj.org.uk/work/careers/

Professional Publishers Association (PPA)

Email: info@ppa.co.uk

Website: www.ppa.co.uk

Society for Editors and Proofreaders (SfEP)

Email: administrator@sfep.org.uk

Website: www.sfep.org.uk

London School of Publishing (LSP)

Email: enquiries@publishing-school.co.uk

Website: www.publishing-school.co.uk

Women In Publishing (WiP)

Website: www.womeninpublishing.org.uk

Publishers Association (PA)

Email: mail@publishers.org.uk

Website: www.publishers.org.uk

Journalism Diversity Fund

Email: journalismdiversityfund@nctj.com

Website: www.journalismdiversityfund.com

BBC Journalism Trainee Scheme

Email: careers@bbchrdirect.co.uk

Website: www.bbc.co.uk/jobs/jts/

Guardian Media Group (GMG)

Email: contact@gmgplc.co.uk

Website: www.gmgplc.co.uk

journalism.co.uk

Website: www.journalism.co.uk

Press Gazette: Journalism Today

Email: pged@pressgazette.co.uk

Website: www.pressgazette.co.uk

Hold the Front Page

Email: editor@htfp.co.uk

Website: www.holdthefrontpage.co.uk

NUJ Freelance Fees Guide

Website: www.londonfreelance.org/feesguide/index.html

The Bookseller

Email: bookseller@escosubs.co.uk

Website: www.thebookseller.com

Brighton Journalist Works

Address: The Argus, Argus House, Crowhurst Road, Hollingbury, Brighton BN1 8AR

Tel: 01273 540350

Email: info@journalistworks.co.uk

Website: www.journalistworks.co.uk/sub-editing-course.html

Publishing Scotland

Scottish enquiries

Email: enquiries@publishingscotland.org

Website: www.publishingscotland.co.uk

Society of Young Publishers (SYP)

Email: sypchair@thesyp.org.uk

Website: www.thesyp.org.uk

Bookcareers

Website: www.bookcareers.com

Inside Book Publishing

Author: Giles Clark Publisher: Routledge

Editorial Training

Email: info@edittrain.co.uk

Website: www.edittrain.co.uk

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