Jo Johnston

Jo Johnston

Professional Member

Why did you choose an editorial career, and how did you get into it?

Many moons ago I was visiting a friend who was working for a charity in Peru, in Lima's prisons and deprived areas. I was 22 and had an epiphany – I came home and decided I wanted to ditch my job and write about social justice issues. That translated into being a copywriter for some of the biggest non-governmental organisations in the UK for the next 13 years, and doing plenty of copy-editing and proofing along the way. Although I'm now doing editorial work across a range of topics and sectors, I still get a kick out of the jobs that have a positive impact on people.

What training have you done to get your editorial career up and running?

I did a broad range of training at the start of my career, such as writing, sharpening grammar, subediting and interviewing with the National Council for the Training of Journalists, and sales promotion and direct marketing courses with the Communications, Advertising and Marketing Foundation.

What work are you most proud of?

It feels good to have been part of fundraising campaigns that have raised millions of pounds for charity, both at home and abroad. 

What do you do if you're struggling on a job?

Go for a walk with my beloved Labrador. Watching her leaping and bounding around puts things into perspective. 

What does being a member of the SfEP mean to you?

I like belonging to a top-class organisation that is upholding industry standards. It's reassuring to know that if I have a query about anything editorial, there'll be someone to turn to for advice. I also like the fact that there are plenty of opportunities to get involved, where you can gain new skills or broaden your knowledge. 

Which editorial tasks do you enjoy the most and why?

I like all aspects of my job, but most of all the diversity of subjects. I love the fact that one day I can be proofreading a research report about HIV and the next creating a tone of voice for a start-up juicing company. 

Do you have any editorial pet hates?

People Who Capitalise Words For No Apparent Reason.

It Sounds Like You're Shouting, It Looks Ugly And It's Difficult To Read.

What has most surprised you about your editorial career?

I've been amazed at the generosity of some of my clients. I had a client who paid me before I'd done the work and others who have sent flowers and cake as a thank you. Equally, I'm amazed at the enquiries I receive where people are haggling over price or want you to do a sample of work beforehand. This gets my goat – I've never asked a dentist for a preview of how they'd work on my teeth! 

What's the best career advice you've received?

Play to your strengths.

What advice do you have for people starting out on an editorial career?

If you go freelance, be prepared for feast or famine. Clients are like a London bus… three come at once or none at all.

Do you ever stop editing?

I hope so as otherwise I'd be a bore down the pub. I must admit it's very satisfying to spot a howler – whether you're reading a newspaper or looking at shop signage, it's hard to turn off your inner editor. 

Finally, tell us one thing about you not related to editing

I've climbed up an active volcano, walked across a dormant volcano and I'm probably living on an extinct volcano. 

The SfEP does not give any special endorsement to the members who appear in Meet our members. If you are looking for an editorial professional, we recommend you search the Directory of Editorial Services.