Editing is not a glamour career. If you want to be famous, it’s not what you can do to get there (though you can be an editor and be famous for something else; I know of examples). Nor is it a career that will make you rich. (In fact, freelance editing is hard to survive at if you’re not married to someone with a good salary. In-house editing jobs can, but don’t always, pay better, but they’re not so easy to find.) Nonetheless, there are many people who want to be editors, including some who offer their editing services to friends or colleagues, sometimes without being asked. So what are the characteristics of a person who could become a good editor?
Well, first of all, if you have a burning desire to fix other people’s prose, if the very sight of a minor grammatical error puts you into a rage, if anytime you see something written you know you could have written it better, if you are often heard to counsel your friends (without being asked) on how to improve their grammar or expressions, if you perhaps carry a marker with which to correct signs in grocery stores, DO NOT BECOME AN EDITOR. At least not until you’ve grown up and changed your personality.
If, on the other hand, you love language and think it’s fun, and you love communication and understand that what’s most important in communication is bringing minds together, and that the results dictate the means, you could become an editor.
If you always have to have things your way, STAY OUT OF EDITING. If making other people happy makes you happy, you may be editor material.
If you are often heard to say things like “That doesn’t matter” and “Why should I care about that?” and “I don’t know about that; it’s not important to me” and “Why do you know all these dumb, useless things,” you will never make any sort of decent editor. On the other hand, if other people often say things like that to you, you very well may! Certainly, if you are more likely to say “I wonder” and “Let’s find out” and “Let me look that up,” and if reading reference works and looking random things up out of sheer interest is something you have always done for fun, you have the right disposition to become an editor.
If you see something that you don’t recognize and don’t know the function of, and you conclude it’s useless, stay out of editing. If you see something that you don’t recognize and don’t know the function of, and it provokes in you an excited desire to find out what it is and what it does, you’re editor material.