Written language skills are an integral part of many positions in almost every industry.
Even staff positions and freelance opportunities that center around writing or editing skills occur in multiple
fields that don’t overlap. For example, just because you can create advertising copy or web content does not mean
you can be a technical writer or a journalist—and vice versa.
Yet there are certain core skills that all writers and editors share, plus there are other skills that are important
features of many forms of professional writing.
Applying for Work as a Writer or Editor.
Besides a traditional resume, you will likely have to provide a portfolio of successfully completed projects and
a collection of writing samples.
For your portfolio, choose those projects and writing samples that are most relevant to the client’s project.
Use your cover letter and other communication to point out how the skills demonstrated by your history relate
to the client’s needs.
Also draw attention to any relevant awards, publishing credits, or occasions where your work led to documented
improvements in your client’s bottom line. Because clients vary in what they want, be prepared to re-organize
your materials for every single pitch.
In many cases, educational or work history not directly related to writing or editing might be relevant to a
particular job or project. For example, you might be hired to edit a book, and knowledge of a book’s subject matter
would be a definite plus. Always be on the lookout for the possibility that your special expertise may be relevant
because the client might not think to ask.
Here are some of the most in-demand skills for writers and editors.
Excellent Spelling, Grammar, and Punctuation.
Automatic spell-checkers and similar services are useful, but none are fully reliable. Excellent editing still
requires a human being. Show prospective clients you can spell by making sure the writing in your pitch is perfect
and by including any experience you have as a proofreader.
If you are familiar with a specific usage style, such as Chicago Manual or Associated Press, say so.
And if you're trained in other style guides such as medical or legal, mention those as well.
Professional Writer Research Skills
As a professional writer, you could be called upon to write on topics you don't know much about.
This requires research, sometimes online. If you are good at finding and assimilating large amounts of information
quickly, say so—and provide examples from your history to prove it.
Familiarity with Relevant Software and Platforms
Some clients require the use of certain word processing programs, file sharing services, collaboration apps,
blogging platforms, or website templates. Some projects require other types of software, such as spreadsheets
or video editing. The more of these you already know how to use, the better. If you can advise your client on which
programs, apps, and platforms to use, that is better yet.
Collaboration and Communication as an Editor
Writing is often collaborative, and editing always is. And the reality is that many people hire writers
and editors because their own communication skills are poor. To succeed, you must be able to get along with others,
even when the others are difficult to get along with.
Technical Writer Skills
A technical writer prepares instructional and supporting documents to communicate complex technical information in a user friendly manner.
They develop and gather feedback from customers, designers, and manufacturers to help identify areas of confusion,
and present solutions to the design and development teams. A technical writer is responsible for creating FAQs,
charts, images, and training document, that can easily be understood by a wide range of backgrounds.
A technical writer must have strong communication skills, along with exceptional writing and grammar skills.
A Bachelor’s degree in Journalism, English, or Communications is often required. However, some companies require
a degree and/or knowledge in a specialized field.