Written by Jayna Baas

Welcome to our bimonthly blog series for “newbie” editors. You’ve finally taken the plunge into professional editing—congratulations! Or perhaps you’re still testing the waters. In either case, you may be wondering, Where do I start?

To build a good foundation as an editor, familiarize yourself with the essential resources professional editors use every day. Knowing these resources inside and out will give you a tremendous advantage in furthering your freelance career.

In the book publishing industry, the standard style guide is The Chicago Manual of Style (CMOS), currently the 17th edition. The 11th edition of Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary (MW) or Merriam-Webster’s Unabridged online subscription are the gold standard for proper spelling in the book industry. If Christian content is your focus, consider making space beside these resources for The Christian Writer’s Manual of Style (CWMS)—currently the 4th edition, although a new edition is in the offing.

If you are interested in editing articles, you’ll want access to the Associated Press stylebook (AP). Modern Language Association (MLA) and American Psychological Association Stylebook (APA) are the standard style guides for academic work from students or industry work, such as doctoral theses, journals, and academic books.

You can find a linked list of these and other references on our Reference Resources page.

PENCON audio and video recordings can give you insight into a specific topic in under an hour. As you grow your business, you may want to purchase these PENCON audio and video recordings:

  • Starting Your Freelance Editing Business, Christi McGuire, 2018 and 2019
  • Grow Your Business, Rebecca Miller, 2020
  • Tax Tips for Freelancers, Chris Morris, 2020
  • Business of Editing, Deb Haggerty, 2022

New recordings from PENCON 2023 will be available soon!

Many editors also benefit from using editing software such as PerfectIt, which can help catch style inconsistencies and other small errors. PEN Silver and Gold members receive discounts on PerfectIt, and all levels of PEN membership can receive discounted subscriptions to The Chicago Manual of Style. Join us today to access these benefits and more.

As you continue to grow as a new editor, these resources will give you the perspective and confidence to offer new services and explore new avenues. In many ways, editing is an open-book test, and having the right books open makes all the difference.

Thank you for subscribing to PEN Tips, and we hope you continue to enjoy the education, tips, and inspiration we offer.

Jayna Baas director photoJayna Baas is the current PEN Director and has been in love with words ever since she learned to use them. As a freelance editor, she specializes in copyediting and proofreading for a polished reading experience. As a Christian fiction author, she is passionate about helping fellow writers present Christ-honoring messages with confidence and excellence. Jayna lives in northern Michigan, where she enjoys gardening, good coffee, and time with family.