- Most jobs in this occupation require a
college degree in communications, journalism, or
English, although a degree in a technical
subject may be useful for technical-writing
- The outlook for most writing and editing
jobs is expected to be competitive because many
people are attracted to the occupation.
- Online publications and services are growing
in number and sophistication, spurring the
demand for writers and editors, especially those
with Web experience.
Nature of the Work
Communicating through the written word, writers
and editors generally fall into one of three
categories. Writers and authors develop
original fiction and nonfiction for books,
magazines, trade journals, online publications,
company newsletters, radio and television
broadcasts, motion pictures, and advertisements. (Reporters
and correspondents, who collect and analyze
facts about newsworthy events, are described
elsewhere in the Handbook.)
examine proposals and select material for
publication or broadcast. They review and revise a
writer's work for publication or dissemination.
Technical writers develop technical materials,
such as equipment manuals, appendixes, or operating
and maintenance instructions. They also may assist
in layout work.
Most writers and editors have at least a basic
familiarity with technology, regularly using
personal computers, desktop or electronic publishing
systems, scanners, and other electronic
communications equipment. Many writers prepare
material directly for the Internet. For example,
they may write for electronic newspapers or
magazines, create short fiction or poetry, or
produce technical documentation that is available
only online. Also, they may write text for Web
sites. These writers should be knowledgeable about
graphic design, page layout, and multimedia
software. In addition, they should be familiar with
interactive technologies of the Web so that they can
blend text, graphics, and sound together.
Writers especially of nonfiction are expected to
establish their credibility with editors and readers
through strong research and the use of appropriate
sources and citations. Sustaining high ethical
standards and meeting publication deadlines are
Creative writers, poets, and lyricists,
including novelists, playwrights, and screenwriters,
create original works'such as prose, poems,
plays, and song lyrics for publication or
performance. Some works may be commissioned by a
sponsor; others may be written for hire (on the
basis of the completion of a draft or an outline).
Nonfiction writers either propose a topic or are
assigned one, often by an editor or publisher. They
gather information about the topic through personal
observation, library and Internet research, and
interviews. Writers then select the material they
want to use, organize it, and use the written word
to express ideas and convey information. Writers
also revise or rewrite sections, searching for the
best organization or the right phrasing.
writers prepare advertising copy for use by
publication or broadcast media or to promote the
sale of goods and services.
produce information for distribution to association
memberships, corporate employees, organizational
clients, or the public.
Freelance writers sell their work to publishers,
publication enterprises, manufacturing firms, public
relations departments, or advertising agencies.
Sometimes, they contract with publishers to write a
book or an article. Others may be hired to complete
specific assignments, such as writing about a new
product or technique.
Bloggers write for the Internet. Most bloggers
write personal reflections on a subject of close
personal or professional interest. Some blogs take
the form of a personal diary; others read like
reports from the field
accounts of an event or an activity. Most blogs are
written for recreational reasons with little
expectation of earning a fee; however, some blogs
promote a business or support a cause and may
generate interest or income through other
Editors review, rewrite, and edit the work
of writers. They may also do original writing. An
editor's responsibilities vary with the employer and
type and level of editorial position held. Editorial
duties may include planning the content of books,
technical journals, trade magazines, and other
general-interest publications. Editors also decide
what material will appeal to readers, review and
edit drafts of books and articles, offer comments to
improve the work, and suggest possible titles. In
addition, they may oversee the production of the
publications. In the book-publishing industry, an
editor's primary responsibility is to review
proposals for books and decide whether to buy the
publication rights from the author.
Major newspapers and newsmagazines usually employ
several types of editors. The
oversees assistant editors, who have
responsibility for particular subjects, such as
local news, international news, feature stories, or
sports. Executive editors generally have the final
say about what stories are published and how they
are covered. The managing editor usually is
responsible for the daily operation of the news
department. Assignment editors determine
which reporters will cover a given story.
editors mostly review and edit a reporter's copy
for accuracy, content, grammar, and style.
In smaller organizations, such as small daily or
weekly newspapers or the membership or publications
departments of nonprofit or similar organizations, a
single editor may do everything or share
responsibility with only a few other people.
Executive and managing editors typically hire
writers, reporters, and other employees. They also
plan budgets and negotiate contracts with freelance
writers, sometimes called 'stringers in the news
industry. In broadcasting companies,
directors have similar responsibilities.
Editors and program directors often have
assistants, many of whom hold entry-level jobs.
These assistants, such as copy editors and
production assistants, review copy for errors in
grammar, punctuation, and spelling and check the
copy for readability, style, and agreement with
editorial policy. They suggest revisions, such as
changing words and rearranging sentences, to improve
clarity or accuracy. They also carry out research
for writers and verify facts, dates, and statistics.
Production assistants arrange page layouts of
articles, photographs, and advertising; compose
headlines; and prepare copy for printing.
Publication assistants who work for publishing
houses may read and evaluate manuscripts submitted
by freelance writers, proofread printers galleys,
and answer letters about published material.
Production assistants on small newspapers or in
radio stations compile articles available from wire
services or the Internet, answer phones, and make
Technical writers put technical
information into easily understandable language.
They prepare operating and maintenance manuals,
catalogs, parts lists, assembly instructions, sales
promotion materials, and project proposals. Many
technical writers work with engineers on technical
subject matters to prepare written interpretations
of engineering and design specifications and other
information for a general readership. Technical
writers also may serve as part of a team conducting
usability studies to help improve the design of a
product that still is in the prototype stage. They
plan and edit technical materials and oversee the
preparation of illustrations, photographs, diagrams,
Science and medical writers prepare a
range of formal documents presenting detailed
information on the physical or medical sciences.
They convey research findings for scientific or
medical professions and organize information for
advertising or public relations needs. Many writers
work with researchers on technical subjects to
prepare written interpretations of data and other
information for a general readership.
Some writers and editors work in comfortable,
private offices; others work in noisy rooms filled
with the sound of keyboards and computer printers,
as well as the voices of other writers tracking down
information over the telephone. The search for
information sometimes requires that writers travel
to diverse workplaces, such as factories, offices,
or laboratories, but many find their material
through telephone interviews, the library, and the
Advances in electronic communications have
changed the work environment for many writers.
Laptop computers and wireless communications
technologies allow growing numbers of writers to
work from home and even on the road. The ability to
e-mail, transmit, and download stories, research, or
editorial review materials using the Internet allows
writers and editors greater flexibility in where and
how they complete assignments.
Some writers keep regular office hours, either to
maintain contact with sources and editors or to
establish a writing routine, but most writers set
their own hours. Many writers, especially freelance
writers, are paid per assignment; therefore, they
work any number of hours necessary to meet a
deadline. As a result, writers must be willing to
work evenings, nights, or weekends to produce a
piece acceptable to an editor or client by the
publication deadline. Those who prepare morning or
weekend publications and broadcasts also may
regularly work nights and weekends.
While many freelance writers enjoy running their
own businesses and the advantages of working
flexible hours, most routinely face the pressures of
juggling multiple projects with competing demands
and the continual need to find new work in order to
earn a living. Deadline pressures and long, erratic
work hours often part of the daily routine in these
may cause stress, fatigue, or burnout; use of
computers for extended periods may cause some
individuals to experience back pain, eyestrain, or
Training, Other Qualifications,
A college degree generally is required for a
position as a writer or editor. Although some
employers look for a broad liberal arts background,
most prefer to hire people with degrees in
communications, journalism, or English. For those
who specialize in a particular area, such as
fashion, business, or law, additional background in
the chosen field is expected. Knowledge of a second
language is helpful for some positions.
Increasingly, technical writing requires a degree
in, or some knowledge about, a specialized field for
example, engineering, business, or one of the
sciences. In many cases, people with good writing
skills can acquire specialized knowledge on the job.
Some transfer from jobs as technicians, scientists,
or engineers. Others begin as research assistants or
as trainees in a technical information department,
develop technical communication skills, and then
assume writing duties.
Writers and editors must be able to express ideas
clearly and logically and should love to write.
Creativity, curiosity, a broad range of knowledge,
self-motivation, and perseverance also are valuable.
Writers and editors must demonstrate good judgment
and a strong sense of ethics in deciding what
material to publish. Editors also need tact and the
ability to guide and encourage others in their work.
For some jobs, the ability to concentrate amid
confusion and to work under pressure is essential.
Familiarity with electronic publishing, graphics,
and video production equipment increasingly is
needed. Use of electronic and wireless
communications equipment to send e-mail, transmit
work, and review copy often is necessary. Online
newspapers and magazines require knowledge of
computer software used to combine online text with
graphics, audio, video, and animation.
High school and college newspapers, literary
magazines, community newspapers, and radio and
television stations all provide valuable, but
sometimes unpaid, practical writing experience. Many
magazines, newspapers, and broadcast stations have
internships for students. Interns write short
pieces, conduct research and interviews, and learn
about the publishing or broadcasting business.
In small firms, beginning writers and editors
hired as assistants may actually begin writing or
editing material right away. Opportunities for
advancement can be limited, however. Many writers
look for work on a short-term, project-by-project
basis. Many small or not-for-profit organizations
either do not have enough regular work or cannot
afford to employ writers on a full-time basis.
However, they routinely contract out work to
In larger businesses, jobs usually are more
formally structured. Beginners generally do
research, fact checking, or copy editing.
Advancement to full-scale writing or editing
assignments may occur more slowly for newer writers
and editors in larger organizations than for
employees of smaller companies. Advancement often is
more predictable, though, coming with the assignment
of more important articles.
Advancement for freelancers often means working
on larger, more complex projects for more money.
Building a reputation and establishing a track
record for meeting deadlines also makes it easier to
get future assignments, as does instituting
long-term freelance relationships with the same
The growing popularity of blogs could allow some
writers to get their work read; a few well-written
blogs may garner some recognition for the author and
may lead to a few paid pieces in other print or
electronic publications. However, most bloggers do
not earn much money writing their blogs.
Writers and editors held about 320,000 jobs in
2004. More than one-third were self-employed.
Writers and authors held about 142,000 jobs;
editors, about 127,000 jobs; and technical writers,
about 50,000 jobs. About one-half of the salaried
jobs for writers and editors were in the information
sector, which includes newspaper, periodical, book,
and directory publishers; radio and television
broadcasting; software publishers; motion picture
and sound-recording industries; Internet service
providers, Web search portals, and data-processing
services; and Internet publishing and broadcasting.
Substantial numbers also worked in advertising and
related services, computer systems design and
related services, and public and private educational
services. Other salaried writers and editors worked
in computer and electronic product manufacturing;
government agencies; religious organizations; and
business, professional, labor, political, and
Jobs with major book publishers, magazines,
broadcasting companies, advertising agencies, and
public relations firms are concentrated in New York,
Chicago, Los Angeles, Boston, Philadelphia, and San
Francisco; however, many writers work elsewhere and
travel regularly to meet with personnel at the
headquarters. Jobs with newspapers, business and
professional journals, and technical and trade
magazines are more widely dispersed throughout the
Thousands of other individuals work as freelance
writers, earning some income from their articles,
books, and, less commonly, television and movie
scripts. Most support themselves with income derived
from other sources.
Employment of writers and editors is expected to
grow about as fast as the average for all
occupations through the year 2014. The outlook for
most writing and editing jobs is expected to be
competitive because many people with writing or
journalism training are attracted to the occupation.
Employment of salaried writers and editors for
newspapers, periodicals, book publishers, and
nonprofit organizations is expected to increase as
demand grows for these publications. Magazines and
other periodicals increasingly are developing market
niches, appealing to readers with special interests.
Businesses and organizations are developing
newsletters and websites, and more companies are
experimenting with publishing materials directly on
the Internet. Online publications and services are
growing in number and sophistication, spurring the
demand for writers and editors, especially those
with Web experience. Advertising and public
relations agencies, which also are growing, should
be another source of new jobs.
Opportunities should be best for technical
writers and those with training in a specialized
field. Demand for technical writers and writers with
expertise in areas such as law, medicine, or
economics is expected to increase because of the
continuing expansion of scientific and technical
information and the need to communicate it to
others. Legal, scientific, and technological
developments and discoveries generate demand for
people to interpret technical information for a more
general audience. Rapid growth and change in the
high-technology and electronics industries result in
a greater need for people to write users guides,
instruction manuals, and training materials. This
work requires people who not only are technically
skilled as writers, but also are familiar with the
In addition to job openings created by employment
growth, some openings will arise as experienced
workers retire, transfer to other occupations, or
leave the labor force. Replacement needs are
relatively high in this occupation; many freelancers
leave because they cannot earn enough money.
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