If you had asked me last summer about the classes I was planning to take in the fall, you would have received an eager response about how excited I was to take Professional Editing. My heart burst with joy at just the thought of being in a class focused on editing.
Editing was one of the main reasons that I chose the Professional Writing and Information Design (PWID) major. It was the career path I wholeheartedly wanted to pursue. Now the time had finally come for me to be taught the ways of editing. I felt fearless. I felt ready. I felt excited.
I didn’t expect to feel challenged.
Professor Wingerter began the class by introducing us to the world of editing, showing us how to proofread by placing the correct marks where they needed to be. She then taught us about well-known grammar mistakes such as fragments, comma splices, and dangling and misplaced modifiers. We learned grammar from the inside out, doing our best to remember all the rules we were taught as we took on our assignments. Professor Wingerter taught us about style guides and how to create one for ourselves when copyediting.
I had always been a grammar nerd and loved to scour people’s papers for grammar mistakes, but this class showed me a whole different side to editing. I learned that it was hard for me to be able to see a problem and give it its correct label at times. Professor Wingerter gave practice assignments where we went through dozens of sentences and tried to correct them. Through each practice assignment, I was able to see which types of grammar issues I struggled to identify the most. This allowed me to study these concepts in depth and fix the gaps in my knowledge. If it weren’t for these types of assignments, I would have thought that my knowledge of grammar was sufficient when in reality, I needed to touch up on my skills.
Professor Wingerter put our knowledge and skills to the test by giving us a copyediting exam. I had anticipated the exam since syllabus day and was eager to take it on, but I nearly had a breakdown when faced with the pages of copy awaiting my corrections.
My passion for copyediting apparently did not mean the process would be easy for me every time. There were certain sentences that were tricky and far more challenging than others. While it discouraged me at first, I felt grateful to be challenged in that way, knowing that there were going to be instances in a job in the future when I could find difficult sentences that needed to be corrected. I was still learning, and this exam was preparing me for what lay ahead. Despite the discouragement I faced initially, I forced myself to push through. It was hard to not overthink certain answers, which led to a lot of second-guessing and erasing. As I neared the deadline, I realized that I needed to have confidence in what I had learned in the editing class thus far. The confidence paid off, and I received a grade that was far better than what I had anticipated.
After the copyediting and proofreading unit was completed, we moved on to the final unit: comprehensive editing. This dealt with editing a piece of writing as a whole, making sure that its content, focus, style, and organization were all aligned with the goals of the writer and the editor.
We learned how to best edit something comprehensively, which started first by taking a step back from the nitty-gritty and trying to get a bigger picture of the written work before us. Professor Wingerter also introduced us to a document written to the author after edits have been made called the letter of transmittal. The letter of transmittal was a new thing for me as I had no idea it was even part of the editing process. Being able to create a letter that was written to an imaginary author made me feel like a real editor speaking to a client. Not only was it fun, but it was a skill I was grateful to learn.
We concluded this portion of the class with a comprehensive editing exam. It was just as challenging as the copyediting exam, and it helped me get a better understanding of what a job as an editor would look like.
To finish the course we tied everything together by taking a copyediting and comprehensive editing final. We edited a fourteen-page research paper where we not only did line-by-line copyediting but also comprehensive editing. We also were instructed to write a letter of transmittal to the author after finishing the editing process as part of the final grade. It was a grueling process at times, but it was one that I can say I did love deep down.
By the end of the semester, I could safely say that my fiery passion for editing didn’t dwindle. Instead, I was given a deeper understanding of the kind of career I wanted to pursue. Editing people’s papers for fun did not come close to the extent of what an editor actually does when they take on a project. However, this class armed me with the tools that I needed to be a successful editor. I learned how both copyediting and comprehensive editing work. While I didn’t expect to be challenged the way that I was, I will say now that challenge was the best thing for me in that class. It helped me to fully understand what editing is and to ask myself if it was something I wanted to do. I can say for certain that the challenges grew my skills as an editor.
Taking this class will certainly help you discover whether editing is something you enjoy or not. Don’t be afraid of the challenge.
About the author
Emily Cone is a sophomore Professional Writing and Information Design major.