Copy-editing Headway – a course review

Post by Alison Chand

In an attempt to track the useful elements of training courses I undertake, and areas with the potential to be more helpful, here’s a brief summary of my experiences completing CE2, or Copy-editing Headway.

Training completed before CE2

I came to editing as someone who fancied myself as pretty good with spelling and grammar. I quickly realised, on dipping my toe into Chapterhouse’s distance learning course in proofreading and copy-editing, that a successful career in the field would involve a bit more than this!

I completed this course in early 2012, but still felt I had many, many things to learn about becoming a freelance proofreader and copy-editor. I resolved to dedicate time each year to CPD and training courses. 2013 saw me undertake the SfEP’s introductory day courses on proofreading and copy-editing, and in 2014 I tackled Proofreading Progress, before it was split into two courses. My training plans went a bit off course in 2015 and 2016 with the birth of Euan, my second child, but in 2017 I determined to get back on track. So, I signed up for CE2, Copy-editing Headway.

With my previous lack of experience of using proofreading and editing symbols, I’d already found Proofreading Progresschallenging and quite a big step up from the introductory day course on proofreading, so I was encouraged by the fact that CE2 promised to be a midway step between the Introduction to Copy-editingand CE3, Copy-editing Progress, particularly as my completion of the introductory course was now three years in the past. I signed up for CE2 in February this year, and was promptly assigned a tutor – Jane Moody, the SfEP’s Director for Professional Development.

Keen to get started, I embarked on the course …

Are you ready?

The opening section, entitled, ‘Are you ready?’, was, for me, the only one that I felt could do with fleshing out. It claimed to be a reminder of what copy-editors do, but the blurb at the opening indicated that CE1 should have furnished me with a knowledge of copy-editing already and the brief notes gave little practical information about how material should be laid out.

My feedback from Jane Moody on my first assignment was extremely detailed and helpful, and very useful in steering me in the correct approaches to take in several areas. I did feel, however, that an example exercise might have been a more useful way to start. The current set-up made me feel a bit of a failure for not remembering much of the course I had done three years previously, but a few quick reminders in Jane Moody’s feedback were sufficient to help me out.

I also felt that the notes provided for this section could have provided a few practical summary points, with an example exercise providing a reminder of how to lay out material. This could easily be done without going over all of CE1, but would take account of the fact that different time periods have passed since participants in CE2 have completed CE1.

The rest of the course

The remainder of the course is divided into four further sections on coding and displaying material; editorial style; bibliographies; and images, photographs and figures.The course notes for these sections were much more useful than those from the first section, and a lot of the material from section 2 on coding and display might usefully have been incorporated into the first section.

Some of the material here served as a reminder of what I knew already, and some was new, but everything was well laid out and useful, and a clear model answer was given for the first practice exercise, allowing me to compare my own work with how it should have been laid out. I think model answers are great for learning and the practice exercises in CE2 made good use of these.

Section 3, on editorial style and what should be included in a style sheet, provided a very helpful example style sheet and I was able to make tweaks to my existing style sheet template for proof-editing purposes. Furnished with the advice provided in sections 2 and 3, I felt much more confident in tackling the second assignment for marking and duly performed much better in it.

Overall, the course offered a good balance between editing on screen and on hard copy.However, while it was useful to do this second assignment on hard copy, I would have found it helpful to do an additional assignment on screen as well as the first one (which I didn’t feel adequately prepared to do justice), before embarking on the final assignment. I should point out that, for the second assignment, as for the others, I received detailed and thorough feedback from Jane Moody, very promptly after I had sent the work.

The information about copy-editing bibliographies in section 4 also incorporated a useful practice exercise. I’ve worked quite a bit with bibliographies for academic authors, so probably felt more comfortable with this material. Much of the material in section 5, though, on images, photographs and figures, was new to me.

As section 5 culminated with completion of the final assignment, it would’ve been useful to see practical examples of how completed work should be laid out in advance of doing the assignment. The course notes were detailed and useful, but stated an assumption that those completing the course would know how to cue images into edited work from CE1. As with the first section, I found this problematic as I had completed CE1 some three years previously. Without going over this material again in great detail, a quick summary of how to do this, perhaps as part of a practical example, would not have gone amiss.

Overall thoughts …

Overall, my experience of completing and, happily, passing CE2 was a positive one. The feedback from my tutor was prompt, helpful and constructive; and, while it might have been useful for the course to have involved fewer assumptions about knowledge from CE1 and to have included more practical examples of material layout, I was still pleased by the level of detail in the course notes and by the organisation of the course.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Alison Chand is a freelance proofreader, copy-editor and oral historian (and swimming teacher!). Her editing work is mostly in academic material, including student dissertations and theses, and academic books and journal articles. Alison is a Professional Member of the SfEP.

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