As I described in a previous post, due to a series of fortunate events at my day job, I recently had the opportunity to partake in some professional development through an online course in copy editing. Recently, I completed Editorial Workshop I: Introduction to Copyediting, the second course in the Professional Sequence in Editing at UC Berkeley Extension, which consists of four courses that can be taken in a period of three years in order to receive the Professional Sequence in Editing certificate. If you’re interested in this course, please allow me to tell you a little bit about my experience.
This 12-week course, which has a set schedule because there is an instructor, is 100% online and can be taken from anywhere in the world with an internet connection and a computer. Of course, you also need a browser, a word processing program (preferably Microsoft Word, but LibreOffice Writer worked for me too), and a PDF reader (preferably Acrobat Reader).
I would say that 98% of the course is self-guided. There were reading materials provided online for each module; however, the bulk of what we studied were chapters from The Copyeditor’s Handbook: A Guide for Book Publishing and Corporate Communications by Amy Einsohn and Marilyn Schwartz, The Chicago Manual of Style, 17th Edition, and Merriam Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary, 11th Edition.
Other than the reading materials, there were no videos or audio lessons for this course. Unlike the Grammar, Mechanics, and Usage for Editors course, this course did not include weekly chats given by the instructor. Instead, the forums were used as the primary mode of communication with the instructor and other students.
I think that if you’re an auditory learner, this course may not be right for you, although if you do need accessibility, UC Berkeley Extension does provide options for students with disabilities and special needs. Since I didn’t use UC Berkeley Extension Disabled Student Services (EXDSS), however, I can’t speak on the full extent of these resources.
There were no quizzes in this course, only practices, assignments, a midterm, and a final. The discussion boards were very helpful, especially when I didn’t know the answer to a question even after researching it for myself. Still, I would have preferred a little bit more discussion on the discussion boards rather than simply a question and answer type of space.
In the end, the gem of the course, at least for me, were the practice assignments, graded assignments, midterm, and the final. In copy editing, practice makes perfect, and the more I studied and practiced copy editing, the more I retained that knowledge. For instance, I now feel much more comfortable creating a style sheet and querying writers.
In addition to creating a style sheet and querying writers, other topics covered in the course included:
- Front and back matter
- Passive voice
- Track Changes (in Microsoft Word)
Overall, if you’re interested in becoming a copy editor or you’re currently working as a copy editor, I’d recommend this course and the sequence as a way to brush up on your skills; however, I’d especially recommend this course if your employer is able to pay for it. This is, of course, not something everyone can do, especially since most copy editors are freelance. Still, unlike the Grammar, Mechanics, and Usage for Editors course, this course did provide some information regarding finding work in the field of copy editing.
That being said, a lot of what we learned can be learned on your own. Given that there were no video or audio lectures, you can likely learn all you need to know from reading the textbooks, especially The Copyeditor’s Handbook: A Guide for Book Publishing and Corporate Communications by Amy Einsohn and Marilyn Schwartz. The one thing these textbooks lack, however, are practice assignments and tests, but with a little research, you may be able to find these online, either for free or for much less than the cost of the course ($810).