Written by Jayna Bass

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?

Editors never stop learning. Whether it’s discovering a new rule or finally grasping a familiar one, chances to grow your knowledge are endless. One fun way to stretch your understanding of editing and proofreading rules is through The Chicago Manual of Style’sStyle Workouts.” These ten-question quizzes test your knowledge of Chicago style and give you instant feedback on pertinent style rules—an enjoyable means of becoming more familiar with various sections of CMOS.

Explore editing guides such as Kathy Ide’s Proofreading Secrets of Best-Selling Authors and writing craft books like 5 Editors Tackle the 12 Fatal Flaws of Fiction Writing, written by CEC Director Christy Distler and four other editors. When you don’t know something, or even when you think you do, look it up. If you have the time, allow yourself to fall down editorial rabbit holes. You may find yourself blithely informing your family members of the historical context of using like as a conjunction, but that’s a small price to pay for the insights you’ll gain.

Tackle a project that’s a little bit out of your comfort zone and watch your editing knowledge expand. Be willing to learn and have a teachable spirit when someone points out an area for improvement. Attend conferences. Talk to other editors. If you’re a Silver or Gold member, ask questions on the email loop. As we start to focus on next year, look back with satisfaction for how far you’ve come—and look ahead with excitement for how far you’ll go!

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


Jayna 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.