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Questions for a Senior Copy Editor

An Interview with Christine Steele

Christine Steele has been editing for about 25 years, the last seven as a senior copy editor in investment communications at American Funds (a Capital Group company). Christine is also an American Copy Editors Society board member and one of the panelists for our upcoming audio conference, “Weathering the Publishing Storm: Copyediting in the Digital Age.”

How did you get into editing, Christine?

I always loved spelling and the English language and majored in communications and journalism. I pursued jobs in proofreading and editing and always wanted to work for a newspaper. Instead, I was able to find editing jobs in non-newspaper fields and they offered better pay and a daytime schedule.

What do you find satisfying about your current position?

It makes me think more intellectually. I’ve learned so much about an industry I never would have considered for copyediting. There are always questions to ask and new materials to read. You even learn how to properly plan for your own retirement.

What advice would you give other editors interested in financial/corporate editing?

Don’t be afraid to ask questions. Don’t be intimidated by anything. If you don’t know the answer to something, your reader might not either. Read all that you can on language and on the industry you are in.

What resources are particular helpful to your area of editing?


· The AP Stylebook

· The SABEW Stylebook (formerly the Financial Writer’s Stylebook)

· Garner’s Modern American Usage (now Modern English Usage)

· Barron’s Dictionary of Finance and Investment Terms


· (searches all dictionaries at once)

· (financial)


· Investopedia

Industry reading

· The Wall Street Journal

Any favorite tips or techniques?

I love these tips from Bryan Garner, and they are worth repeating. It’s from his interview in the December 2003–January 2004 Copy Editor newsletter.

First, do everything you can to educate yourself about the language. … Second, keep making distinctions. Don’t think that you’re the only one who cares about linguistic distinctions, because there are many of us out there. Third, understand that copy editing involves people skills as well as technical skills.

Have you made any good catches recently? Corrected any funny or interesting mistakes?

We have mentioned in literature that our investment professionals follow an objective-based bottom-up approach to investing. Sometimes an “s” sneaks in after “bottom,” so I’ve been able to save the text from reading “bottoms-up.” So far it’s never made it in print.

If you weren’t in publishing, what would you like to try as a career? What’s a job that fascinates you?

I might want to try photography. I’m always the one at events who likes to take photos and then share them with everyone or make scrapbooks for gifts. Being an investigator or detective might be fun because I could use some of my same copyediting skills, such as checking facts/researching.

Thanks, Christine!

This interview originally appeared on as “Questions for a Senior Copy Editor: Christine Steele” on May 4, 2012.

Submitted by Dawn McIlvain Stahl

Image courtesy of Ken Teegardin

Say it with Steele, x C

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