Are you patient, tolerant, and painstaking? Me neither, but I do have some coping mechanisms. Before you throw away your chance to be an adjunct lecturer in ancient Chinese poetry, an interpreter of the Talmud, an ad exec, or any other use for an English degree to become a copyeditor, ask yourself the following questions:
1. Do I have the patience to comb through a 400-page manuscript to make sure that medium-high is hyphenated when it is used as a modifier (e.g., medium-high heat) and not hyphenated when it is used by itself?
2. Can I religiously enforce a grammar or style rule that I find odious to my very being?
3. Wait a minute, do I even have grammar or style rules that I find odious to my very being? [I call this the Meg rule. If you can’t imagine getting into a heated debate about serial commas in a bar, you might want to consider another career.]
4. Can I remember the difference between compose and comprise? Or do I at least have the presence of mind to write it down somewhere where I can find it again? Sometimes all you need is to know that there is a difference.
5. Can I talk people down from their writerly cliffs? Can I query without being insulting? Do I know how to compromise? Do I know when to speak and when to shut up? (I can manage the first two on a good day.)
What questions would you ask? Or did you just clamp your hands over your ears and say “I’m not listening! I’m not listening!”?