Every now and then I’ll meet someone new in a social setting, and during our getting-acquainted chitchat they will ask what I do for a living, and vice versa. Usually, instead of immediately launching into a detailed explanation of what I do in my workaday world, I’ll abbreviate it with a one- or two-word descriptor couched in terms of who I am. We all do this. We say, “I am a teacher . . . plumber . . . carpenter . . . homemaker . . . sales manager . . . pastor . . . circus clown . . . accountant . . . police officer . . . business owner”—whatever. If the other person wants more detail, we’re usually happy to oblige.
For the past twenty years, I’ve worked in various capacities in higher education. I’ve been an instructor in the classroom (both undergraduate and graduate); I’ve been a research technician, conducting statistical analyses using data sets both large and small; and for the lion’s share of the past twenty years I’ve been a counselor—an academic counselor. I retired from full-time employment at a large university five years ago; since then, in semi-retirement, I have worked part time at a community college as an academic counselor, and I love it. I also enjoy my freelance work at home as a copyeditor and blog writer. I stay busy and, for the most part, out of trouble.
Sometimes, explaining to the casual listener what we do is, shall we say, challenging. Try “copyeditor” on for size. After the typical initial glassy-eyed stare, if my new friend says anything at all, it’s commonly something like, “Oh, a copywriter, huh?”
“No,” I reply, “I’m a copyeditor.”
“Oh. Oh, yeah! You proofread stuff and find typos and misspellings. Just like my kid sister—she’s a really good speller.”
My internal conversational struggle begins: Do I explain that copyediting and proofreading are very different tasks and definitely not synonymous? That there’s a whole lot more to copyediting than correcting typos and misspelled words (although that’s certainly a part of it)?
Nah. It takes too long, and I hate boring people to death. So I take a deep breath and say, “Yep, that’s right! Just like your kid sister.”
How about you? Do you have similar challenges explaining to others what you do? Share in the comments. Δ
If you would like to know more about what I actually do as a copyeditor, please check out my Copyediting Services page here on this website.
 As a concession not only to twenty-first-century sensibilities but also to a smoother writing style, when the gender of the subject is not specified, I often use the gender-neutral third-person-plural pronouns “they,” “them,” or “their” in place of “he,” or “he or she,” or the wretched “s/he.” The latest edition of the hallowed Chicago Manual of Style concurs on this point for the first time.
 SPSS statistical software and I became best buds in those days.
© 2018 by Dean Christensen