Skip to main content Accessibility help
  • Print publication year: 2013
  • Online publication date: March 2013

3 - Editing



Without editors, journals would not happen.

The Oxford English dictionary (OED) defines “editor” as “a person who is in charge of and determines the final content of a newspaper, magazine, or multi-author book.”

However, in the field of scholarly journals, the terms “editing” and “editor” cover a particularly broad range of activities; to add to the confusion, the precise terminology used to describe the roles within this range varies widely among publishers, and elements of these roles may be combined in numerous different ways.

Broadly speaking, editorial roles fall into two distinct functional areas. On the one hand, there is the “content acquisition” role – generally carried out by a specialist in the journal’s subject area. The journal Editor, in this sense of the word, will fit the OED definition: he or she will be responsible for deciding what does and does not appear in the publication. There may be a more complex team fulfilling aspects of this role – this is discussed in more detail below.

On the other hand, there is the “process and management” role – the preparation of the content for publication, as well as the overall business management of the journal. This type of editorial role is exercised within the publisher’s offices (or under its control). Although it is often forgotten by those who assert that publishers are no longer a necessary part of the scholarly communication chain, Editors carry out a most valuable job, clarifying (and often correcting) the author’s text and, vitally for online journals, checking the references to ensure that they can be linked wherever possible to the publications to which they refer. For online journals, they also prepare digital files for publication and make decisions about how the content will be presented.

Recommend this book

Email your librarian or administrator to recommend adding this book to your organisation's collection.

The Handbook of Journal Publishing
  • Online ISBN: 9781139107860
  • Book DOI:
Please enter your name
Please enter a valid email address
Who would you like to send this to *
Butcher, Judith, Drake, Caroline, and Leach, Maureen, 2006, Butcher’s copy-editing: the Cambridge handbook for editors, copy-editors and proofreaders, 4th edn, Cambridge University Press
Hames, Irene, 2007, Peer review and manuscript management in scientific journals: guidelines for good practice, Oxford, Association of Learned and Professional Society Publishers/Wiley-Blackwell ()
Hansard, , 1947, House of Commons Debates, November 11, 1947, UK Parliament, London ()
Meyer, Carol Anne, 2008, Reference accuracy: best practices for making the links, Journal of Electronic Publishing 11:2, Spring ()
Nature, 2006, Overview: Nature’s peer review trial, Nature online debate, December ()
Page, Gillian, Campbell, Robert, and Meadows, Jack, 1997, Journal publishing, Cambridge University Press
Further reading
ALPSP Advice Notes (available to all employees of member organizations) on: Managing the Editorial Office, CrossRef, and many other topics – see the ALPSP website ()
American Medical Association, 2007, AMA manual of style: a guide for authors and editors, 10th edn, Chicago, American Medical Association/Oxford University Press – also available in an online edition at
American Psychological Association, 2009, Publication manual of the American Psychological Association, 6th edn, Washington, DC, American Psychological Association – also available online at with corrections and updates
American Sociological Association, 2010, ASA style guide, 4th edn, Washington, DC, American Sociological Association
Brown, Diane, Stott, Elaine, and Watkinson, Anthony, 2003, Serial publications: guidelines to good practice in publishing printed and electronic journals, 2nd edn, Worthing, Association of Learned and Professional Society Publishers
The Chicago manual of style: the essential guide for writers, editors, and publishers, 2010, 16th edn, University of Chicago Press – also available in an online edition at
Coghill, Anne M, and Garson, Lorrin R (eds.), 2006, The ACS style guide: effective communication of scientific information, Washington, DC, American Chemical Society
Council of Science Editors () – site contains a number of useful models for editorial forms and correspondence
Council of Science Editors, 2006, Scientific style and format: the CSE manual for authors, editors, and publishers, 7th edn, Wheat Ridge, CO, Council of Science Editors
European Association of Science Editors, Science editor’s handbook, European Association of Science Editors, ongoing – looseleaf ()
Modern Language Association of America, 2008, MLA style manual and guide to scholarly publishing, 3rd edn, New York, Modern Language Association of America
Reynolds, Regina Romano, and Hepfer, Cindy, 2009, In search of best practices for presentation of e-journals, Information Standards Quarterly 21: 20–4 ()
Ritter, Robert M, 2003, The Oxford style manual, Oxford University Press
Ritter, Robert M, 2005, New Hart’s rules: the handbook of style for writers and editors, Oxford University Press
Warren, Thomas L, 1999, Words into type, 4th edn, Upper Saddle River, NJ, Prentice Hall