Copyediting II – UCSD Copyediting: Final Thoughts

Right before the holidays, I wrapped up my third course at the University of California – San Diego Copyediting program, Copyediting II. It spanned ten weeks, and you can see my full initial thoughts on the course here. I have received my final grade (passing!), and I wanted to share my final impression.

My Copyediting II course required the following each week:

  1. Reading, approximately 20-50 pages plus chunks of the Chicago Manual of Style
  2. Quiz or short edit
  3. Discussion post

In addition, there was a midterm and a final. My professor also offered lesson slides with a recorded lecture. While the course was technically ten weeks, weeks eight and ten required no assignment turn in.

Readings

When registering,  the course listed the following books as required:

  • The Copyeditor’s Handbook: A Guide for Book Publishing and
    Corporate Communications (3rd Edition) by Amy Einsohn
  • The Chicago Manual of Style: The Essential Guide for Writers, Editors,
    and Publishers (17th Edition) by University of Chicago Press Staff
  • Oxford Essential Guide to Writing (1st Edition) by Thomas S. Kane

The Chicago Manual of Style is the main required reading. Every week there was at least a few sections from the CMoS that were assigned. The other two books are supplements for particular subjects. By this point in the course, you should have already read through the entire Copyeditor’s Handbookand in this course, you are merely refreshing your memory or providing more detail to the sections assigned from CMoS.

Oxford Essential Guide to Writing was largely used around terminologies such as parallelism, concision, and bias-free language. I read through the entire book before the course started, and it felt like it was tailored to nonfiction editing. However, I still found it informative. You do not actually need to read this entire book, nor The Copyeditor’s Handbook, for this course.

Assignments

There were six weeks that required some type of quiz or edit outside the midterm and final.  Five of those weeks were quizzes, usually ten questions each. Each question was multiple choice except for a couple that required you to write a small paragraph answer. The questions revolved around the readings for the week, and I found that if I listened to his lecture, I didn’t even need to search through the text. I’d estimate it took me about 30 minutes to complete each quiz, including double-checking answers.

The short edit was about web editing and concision. Note that this could vary by the professor or a future update to the curriculum. We had to rearrange paragraphs and reword the article to be perfect for the web reader. It was a very interesting assignment, and I found it very helpful. I have actually tried to apply it to my writing on this site (clearly still in progress). The edit took me a few hours to complete, though your time may vary based on prior experience.

The discussion board participation was required each week, but it was fairly easy to maintain. My group was very helpful and chatty, though I did notice most people tended to wait until the last day to post. Each week we were given two topics to choose from, often being as simple as posting about a Twitter account revolving around editing. It was all about communication within the group.

Midterm and Final

Both the midterm and final involved electronically editing a nonfiction passage using track changes in Word. The final was a lot longer and more complicated. Luckily for me, no style sheet was required to turn in, though I do feel like I need more experience with them. We were given certain styles to follow and told to do a medium to heavy copyedit. I struggled with the final simply because the writing was so bad. When that happens, I have the tendency to want to just rewrite. I am also learning the very delicate balance of what constitutes a medium versus heavy copyedit.

I did both of these over the course of several days. I always start with a read through as soon as the assignment is up, catching all basic mistakes and maybe adding a few queries. As I have to do most of my schoolwork at night, I also wanted to ensure I was not tired. Plus, I like the idea of “fresh eyes” the next day. Because of this, it’s hard to estimate how long you need, but I would guess between four and six hours, once again varying dependent on experience.

Professor

I loved my professor. He was knowledgeable and laid back. He let us know right away that as long as we are putting in the effort, he wouldn’t fail us. That relieves some burden, but it also still meant we had to put in the work and do it right. The thing about editing is that it can be so subjective, and I like that he let us have differing opinions on how to edit (outside of the hard and fast rules). Unlike with the first two courses, I was very happy with the lecture portion, finally finding a professor that lectured along with the slides. He responded quickly on the Discussion Board as well as email, getting assignments back quickly and with excellent feedback. He even graded my final that night since he said my email seemed like I was a bit worried about how well I did. It was very thoughtful.

My only concern with this kind of approach is that I worry it’s not enough. As someone who is switching careers and heading straight to freelance, I don’t have the luxury of training under a mentor. I don’t have the money or the time in my life right now. This certificate is my crash course to make sure I’m ready for that leap. So, maybe I am doing really well, or maybe I’m just not doing that bad that he felt the need to dock many points. I like the think the former, but it is something to consider when researching your choice in a professor.

Final Thoughts

I say this standard speech every time. Your experience will vary. Each professor sets their course in their own way and may require different assignments. They may be more lenient with grading. They may not be as good at responding to questions. And as always, it will all depend on your willingness to do the work and your previous background with editing and grammar. I can only attest to my experience in this specific course with this professor.

So, did I learn anything? Very much so. I think the feedback on the edited assignments (three total) was particularly helpful. And even if the reading or lectures didn’t reveal much more than what I already knew, the coursework and discussion helped boost my confidence that I can do it.

This was the first course that I didn’t feel had any dead weight to it. Everything felt like it was purposeful and would help us in a future career. If I could complain at all it’s that it actually didn’t feel like enough. I wanted more from this course, but I still felt I got my money’s worth.

Next up, I am registered for Copyediting III! The final stop!

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