An American Editor

April 14, 2023

On the Basics: Résumés for today’s communications pros

Filed under: Editorial Matters — An American Editor @ 11:32 am
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© Ruth E. Thaler-Carter, Owner

An American Editor

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I wrote about “Résumés for Today’s Freelance Journalists” for a recent presentation about that topic for the Freelance Community of the Society of Professional Journalists (SPJ), and it occurred to me that the tips apply to other colleagues as well. I hope this version is helpful to An American Editor subscribers.

Paper résumés are almost a thing of the past these days (although they can still be needed). Most of today’s résumés will be sent and seen as digital versions, which have their own requirements. Luckily, you can use the same content for both that traditional version and today’s digital one. The difference is less in what you present than in how you get it into the hands of potential clients.

Some standard rules still apply: Keep a résumé to what would be two single-spaced pages if it were printed out. Use the active voice. Leave out family information and non-relevant hobbies. Send your résumé as an attachment only if asked to do so; messages with unsolicited résumés are usually discarded as potential spam or viruses. Don’t include salary or project fee information. Update it regularly and keep a current version on hand/on your computer(s) so you don’t have to panic about whether it’s ready to be seen by prospective clients or employers, or miss an opportunity because it takes too long to do an update. 

Organizing your info

The first step in creating, revamping or updating your résumé — whether for print or digital use — is organization.

Traditional résumés for full-time positions are organized chronologically, often starting with education information (at least for recent graduates), followed by experience, with your current or most-recent job first.

A freelancer’s résumé starts by presenting assignments and projects, even if some were done quite a while ago or when you were (or are) in school. Recent students usually put their education info first. For people with substantial experience, education is less important and can be moved to the end.

Do not include family/personal information and only include hobbies if you write, edit, proofread, index, photograph or broadcast, etc., about them. This goes for both freelance and in-house searches.

Pro bono projects can contribute to your image as someone with skills and experience in various fields or topics, especially if you’re new to whatever editorial/publishing work you do or want to do. If you’re aiming for traditional in-house work, label those as pro bono, volunteer or community service. If you’re a freelancer, you can include such projects as part of your experience or freelance business section because no one has to know whether (or how much) you’re paid for them; the work itself is what matters.

You probably don’t need to include a street address, although it’s a good idea to keep a city and state for potential clients who might want you to handle onsite assignments — that’s probably more important for journalists, who are expected to cover events in person, but could relate to other types of work and projects. Nowadays, many colleagues leave phone numbers out of their résumés, using only e-mail addresses and social media handles as their contact information.

You still will include any full-time or in-house work, and those should still start with the most-recent position. Include links to published work (as long as you have client permission to do so) and the testimonial or portfolio section of your website.

Don’t forget to include membership(s) in professional associations, especially if you’re active and visible in one or more of those groups. And do include any work-related training you’ve taken. Both can go under a Professional Development heading. Your teaching and speaking experience, if any, should also be featured.

The process

  1. Create your résumé in Word.
  2. Keep the design simple: All-black “ink,” no more than two typefaces/fonts (and those should be common ones —good choices are Georgia or Cambria for serif, and Verdana or Calibri for sans-serif), ideally at 12 pt but no smaller than 9 pt; no photo; no boxes, shading, rules (lines between items) or other fancy graphics other than italics and — for headings — bold type.
  3. Include your e-mail address; website URL and blog URL if you have one; and social media connections: LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram — whatever is current and professional.
  4. Skip the traditional Objective; it’s assumed that you’re looking for a job or for freelance gigs. Start with a list of skills you offer and software you can use.
  5. To include freelance work when aiming for in-house positions, group those projects under their own heading — the name of your freelance business or, if you haven’t come up with a business name, something like “Freelance/Independent Projects.”
  6. Bullet out projects in list form and active voice, by client or outlet. Rather than “Assigned to cover …,” use “Covered X beat with stories about Event X, Person Y, Issue Z, for Newspaper Name,” etc., or just “Wrote/Presented … for Publication A/Outlet B.” You can use general categories, such as news, feature, profile, etc., but do include names of subjects if your work includes projects for or about celebrities!
  7. Ask a colleague to proofread your résumé — it’s hard to check our own work to perfection because we know what we meant to say or have tinkered with a résumé so much that we could misspell our own names or those of our clients or employers (trust me; that happens). Having another pair of eyes on your résumé will ensure you haven’t made any blunders that will disqualify you from getting freelance gigs or new jobs — especially if you’re an editor or proofreader!

Keep the Word version handy so you can revise the résumé as needed for specific opportunities, usually by rearranging the sequence in your project list to put the most-relevant projects first, and to add new projects as you complete them.

Use cover letters to go into why you’re a great pick for specific assignments or listings by parroting the language of opportunities you’re responding to with how you fit those requirements, but keep them short — no more than a single-spaced page.

Getting to digital

The digital aspect comes in once you organize your information.

• Create and keep your résumé as a Word document but use the Print function to save it as a PDF, and send the PDF version to prospective clients on request. A Word document can be changed by whoever receives it; a PDF is safer from such interference. The PDF also retains formatting and fonts if you’ve used something that clients might not have.

• Post, or announce the availability of, the PDF to all of your social media outlets.

• If you have a blog and/or website (and make creating one your priority if you don’t!), post the PDF there and describe your freelance business or professional background in more detail. Focus on what makes your work important or interesting, your experience and skills, what you’d like to cover, how you can help a prospective client, etc.

• Where possible, post the PDF to your professional association profiles and membership directories. If résumés aren’t allowed, use the content of yours to flesh out your directory profile(s) and, again, include links to published work (as long as you have client permission to do so).

Back to business cards

And by the way, especially now that in-person events are coming back: Business cards are still important! They could function as mini-résumés and will always have value as introductions. You can save yours on your phone to exchange with the more digital-savvy, but keep a stash of the paper version in every pocket, handbag, briefcase, camera case, etc. You never know when or where you might meet someone who would ask for your card. Some of colleagues’ best connections and freelance clients have come about from offering a business card at a party, in the grocery store line, at a highway gas station, on a plane or train …

For a previous post about business cards and résumés, check out:

Do you have any additional tips for effective versions and uses of résumés? Feel free to comment!

Ruth E. Thaler-Carter ( is an award-winning provider of editorial and publishing services for publications, independent authors, publishers, associations, nonprofits and companies worldwide, and the editor-in-chief and owner ofAn American Editor. She created the annualCommunication Central Be a Better Freelancer® conference for colleagues (, now co-hosted with the National Association of Independent Writers and Editors ( and sponsored by An American Editor. She also owns A Flair for Writing (, which helps independent authors produce and publish their books. She can be reached at or


March 23, 2020

On the Basics — Passing the time in quarantine

Filed under: Editorial Matters — An American Editor @ 11:02 am
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By Ruth E. Thaler-Carter, Owner

An American Editor

The coronavirus crisis is forcing change on every aspect of society that I can see, and will have long-lasting effects on all of our lives, both professional and personal. I hope all of our subscribers here will be safe.

Among concerns is that scammers and spammers are ramping up their schemes to take advantage of this scary time, so be extra-vigilant. While situations like this bring out the best in most people, it also brings out the worst in others. I’ve already seen warnings about people going door-to-door peddling phony cures (although that’s likely to stop as more stay-at-home orders go into effect), and inaccurate suggestions are going the rounds in places like Facebook, especially its messenger service. Warn family and friends (especially older people and those who live alone) that the longer this lasts, the more fake “cures,” treatments and tips will circulate. Tell them not to take “advice” or buy anything from unfamiliar sources, and ask them not to “forward to everyone in your address book.”

We also have to be aware that being stuck at home for unknown lengths of time can create tension among family members, in addition to boredom. Domestic violence is expected to increase. I don’t know how to counteract that trend, but being aware of the possibility might help some of us hold it at bay.

It also could get dangerous to venture out if stay-at-home orders last for longer than we hope and people feel increasingly desperate or angry about the situation. If you have to leave home for groceries, medications and other essentials, try to have someone with you, be extra-alert, don’t forget your cellphone and don’t dawdle.

Between crisis anxiety and being stuck at home due to work closings and stay-in orders, we’re all likely to eat more than usual, and more stuff that isn’t healthy. Comfort food is one thing; junk food is something else entirely. Two suggestions: (1) If you’re doing a store run, don’t be tempted to stock up on junk food, even if the kids are demanding it; if you have some at home, stash it somewhere inaccessible. (2) Up your activity level – do calisthenics and hallway walking indoors, go for walks around the block every couple hours, take the kids or the dog on longer walks than usual, go to a park for a hike or stroll. You’ll feel better mentally and physically.

We’re also likely to spend more than usual on online shopping as a distraction, so be careful not to go overboard because you or your family members need something to do. Start looking around the house for projects to tackle that can be done without spending more money; make such projects into games and challenges for family and neighbors.

Don’t give up on professional development opportunities. While major conferences have been cancelled, most host organizations are finding ways to keep the learning and networking aspects going through Skype, Zoom, GoToWebinar and similar resources.

I came up with a few more ideas for passing the time as more and more of us are seeing restrictions on activity and in-person interaction with family and friends (not to mention clients, colleagues, employers and places we’re used to going to – stores, banks, museums, sports settings, concerts, meetings and more), as well as issues with work and income.

Find ways to help – family members, neighbors, colleagues, total strangers. Whether it’s running essential errands or communicating through GrandPads, videoconferencing and physical windows, the more we do to help each other, the better we’ll feel.

Sort, file and pitch – business and personal records, checkbook registers, credit card statements, clothes, unpacked boxes, souvenirs, photos, outgrown or never-used toys, expired canned goods and other staples or medications, collections, books, etc.

Plan to give away – any of the above that you realize you don’t need

Garden – mulch, weed, clear, soil-test, start planting; it’s good for your mental and physical health, and the results could help cheer you up

Catch up – on reading (book piles, magazines, newspapers in real life; online; in Kindle and other phone apps), laundry, redecorating, mending, repurposing

Write – that book you’ve been meaning to start or finish, poetry, letters to friends for mailing on paper or electronically, blog posts for later publication

Update – your résumé, will and health directives, savings and investment plans, marketing projects

Resurrect an old or start a new hobby

Learn a new skill or program — the Internet is awash with YouTube and other resources for learning on your own or at home with family members

Clean – the house, home office, car, garage, etc.

Assemble – puzzles, dollhouses, workshop/building projects, knick-knacks into art

Get out – walk around the neighborhood or drive and then walk/hike at a park

Communicate – with family and friends by phone, e-mail and Internet, both to reassure each other and to counter false information. You might even learn interesting things about family and personal histories that never came up before.

Invent games – for kids both at home and around your neighborhood. One of my friends posted about a game for kids that started in his Chicago neighborhood: putting teddy bears in your windows and coming together online to identify where they are – like an Easter egg or treasure hunt that can be done virtually as well as physically. Coming up with creative outlets and activities will, again, be good for our emotional and mental health.

How are you coping? How is your work life going so far?

Ruth E. Thaler-Carter ( is an award-winning provider of editorial and publishing services for publications, independent authors, publishers, associations, nonprofits and companies worldwide, and the editor-in-chief and — as of 2019 — owner of An American Editor. She also hosts the annual Communication Central “Be a Better Freelancer”® conference for colleagues (, this year co-hosted with the National Association of Independent Writers and Editors ( and planned for October 2–4 in Baltimore, MD. She can be reached at or


March 13, 2020

On the Basics: Tips for coping with the current health crisis

By Ruth E. Thaler-Carter, Owner

An American Editor

Many AAE subscribers have been working from home for years, so the current movement to that model as a response to the coronavirus crisis (yes, it is at crisis level in many ways) is no big deal. Others work in outside offices and are faced with transforming their own or their colleagues’ work styles into being home-based.

Based on my many years of working from home, here are some suggestions.

At home

  • If you live with family members, let them know that you need peace and quiet, with minimal interruptions or intrusions, when you’re trying to work. Both spouses/partners and younger kids will think it’s great to have you at home with them, but might have to be tactfully educated about why you’re there, what you have to get done for work and when (or if) you can take a break to hang out with them.
    • Ask everyone to let you answer the home phone if you have one, so clients and colleagues don’t get your adorable five-year-old on the line or someone who forgets to take important messages.
    • Set aside a dedicated workspace and make sure everyone knows not to mess with your computer and paper files. If you have a room that becomes your office, consider putting a Do not disturb! sign on the door.
    • Have a laptop for work that no one else in the house is allowed to use, or invest in an inexpensive desktop setup that is also hands-off to everyone but you.
    • Get dressed in something more business-like than jeans and T-shirts so you feel like you’re working — and your family treats you accordingly.
    • Get out of the house every day, for a walk around the block, lunch with family or friends, trips to the store or library as needed or appropriate, etc.
    • Keep a schedule similar to your usual workday so going back to the office won’t be as big of a jolt when you get the all-clear.
    • If your company doesn’t have a template to log your projects and time, create one — even if you aren’t asked to provide it.
  • If you have children of about grades 5 to 9 (U.S. system) who might have to stay home because local schools close down, a Facebook colleague suggested using (there’s even a PDF of lesson plans for “Teaching Literary Elements Through Song Lyrics”) and the site Every-Day Edits to keep them busy.
  • Splurge on some new books, toys and games for kids, partners, parents, pets, etc., and consider subscriptions to online movies, e-books and other sources of information and entertainment that you might not have needed until now. If you have to stay home for any unusual amount of time, the usual entertainments could get old pretty quickly.

For the office

  • Set up regular phone or Internet meetings to track project status and employee health or needs — not necessarily daily, but certainly weekly.
  • Create a template for individual employee project activity.
  • Expand sick day guidelines/benefits.
  • Provide laptops for anyone who needs them.
  • Set up special passwords and login access so people working from home don’t expose company materials to access by family members and visitors.
  • Triple-check health-related warnings and recommendations before sharing them with employees.
  • Stock up on sanitizers, gloves and face masks for employees.
  • Adopt a heightened routine for cleaning surfaces throughout the office, including door knobs, stairwell railings, elevator buttons, desks, keyboard, phones, etc.
  • Remind employees that any and all communications, quotes and comments about how the company is handling this issue must come from authorized spokespeople, and ask (or tell) employees not to post about it to Facebook and other social media.

In general

Whether you work in-house or freelance from home, you might feel the urge to stock up on household supplies and find that your usual grocery or big-box store is running low. Remember that drugstores and department chains (Target, Dollar Stores, etc.) carry things like toilet paper, dry goods, pet food and supplies, beverages, over-the-counter medications and other healthcare products, etc. Many also have refrigerated sections with perishable or frozen foods. There should be a variety of options for keeping your home stocked with whatever you might need in the next few weeks.

Best of luck to all!

How are you coping with and preparing for this situation? What other suggestions do you have for colleagues, whether in-house or freelance?

June 19, 2019

How Not to Network

By Ælfwine Mischler

With spring weather comes conference season and plenty of conferences for indexers, editors, and communications professionals of all types. For those of us who are freelancers, conferences offer a chance to socialize in addition to learning more about our craft and networking that might eventually lead us to new work gigs, since people are more likely to recommend or offer work to someone they have met in person.

But conferences are expensive. While there are ways to reduce the costs, unless you are a fantastic trainer or speaker whose costs will be covered by the conference hosts, you will have to lay out a considerable amount of money for travel, hotel, meals, and conference registration. It’s one reason that so many of us interact with colleagues online rather than in person.

That expense is particularly difficult for those of us who are new to the field. With that in mind, friends of an indexing software developer who had been generous in helping indexers established a scholarship in his memory to help defray the costs of a conference for newer indexers. In 2019, they offered two scholarships to entrants who had completed some formal index training within the past five years and had registered and paid to attend one of the annual national conferences offered in the USA, UK, South Africa, or Canada. If there were more than two entrants, the winners would be chosen by a blind drawing. (Disclosure: I was one of the 2019 scholarship winners.)

This was a great opportunity for networking and professional development. Unfortunately, it also led to a level of bad networking behavior in social media. While this is only one instance of how not to network, and an unusual one at that, it might be instructive for colleagues.

It so happened that the other winner and I had both completed our training five years ago, so this was the last time we would be eligible for the scholarship. As soon as the winners were announced in one of the indexing e-mail groups, one person — whom I’ll refer to as I.M. Pistov — started to rage in the group. Pistov complained that the scholarship had unfairly gone to two established indexers and that this showed bias in the indexing organization. Pistov claimed to have experience in editing and writing, but having difficulty breaking into indexing. The organization was corrupt, this was a terrible field to go into, etc.

When some people tried to tell Pistov otherwise, he accused them of calling him a liar. At least one other person on the list said something about how entertaining Pistov’s behavior was. Others politely told Pistov to reconsider his marketing plan: Maybe he should concentrate on using his website, and he should consider how he speaks to clients — if it was anything like what he was demonstrating on the forum, he should reconsider being a freelancer in any area, not just indexing.

I stayed out of the fray until one of the administrators of the scholarship spoke up to reiterate the rules for the scholarship and to state that the indexing organization and the forum were not in any way affiliated with the scholarship. A few hours later, Pistov came back on the forum and apologized for his earlier behavior. At that point, I came into the discussion to say that I admired his courage in apologizing in public and to wish him well. One of the less-gracious posters from earlier in the day then apologized to Pistov, moving herself up a notch in my estimation.

This incident is an example of how not to network. It might not be as common as other kinds of rude behavior toward colleagues online, or something like asking colleagues to share their client lists, but it had the potential for Pistov to be known and remembered for anything but his professional skills and value as a colleague.

Nowadays, most of us do the majority of our networking in e-mail discussion lists, online groups, blogs, and similar outlets. We have to remember that our behavior in an online forum is just as important as our behavior in person. If you feel that you must publicly voice your disappointment with something related to your profession, at least do not accompany it with name-calling and unfounded accusations of bias or cheating. Better yet, vent your anger and disappointment in a Word file and delete it unused, so there is no risk of accidentally hitting the Send or Post button.

There are dozens, at the least, of associations and social media communities to participate in for networking purposes — but we all need to remember that our online behavior in these forums is also an important way to connect with colleagues. Over the years that I have been a member of the Copyediting List (CE-L) and various indexing e-groups, for instance, I have learned who the frequent posters are and what areas they specialize in, and I have also gleaned something of their personalities. One member seems to be very sensitive; I have to be careful how I word things directed to her. Another always gives such short, almost cryptic answers that I have to ask for clarification. I ask questions, but I also have learned to be of assistance to colleagues whenever possible, and to always use a polite, pleasant tone — it’s so easy for online communications to come across the wrong way.

It works both ways: Colleagues have contacted me both on- and off-list with questions in my area of expertise, and I have referred colleagues and been referred by colleagues for gigs. The ones who behave professionally are the ones who earn responses and referrals.

There are many more tips for networking online, some of which have already been discussed in this blog. See, for example,

Are Networking and Marketing Essential to an Editing Business?:

Making the Best Use of Interaction with Colleagues:

Have you had any difficult experiences in social media behavior? How have you handled such incidents?

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