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Copyediting I – UCSD Copyediting: Final Thoughts

As I wrap up the second course in the University of California – San Diego Copyediting program, I want to share the actual content of the course and a brief review. Copyediting I spanned ten weeks, and you can see my full initial thoughts on the course here. I finished all the work and am just waiting for my final grade.

My Copyediting I course required the following each week:

  1. Reading, approximately 30-60 pages
  2. Quiz, Discussion post, or Homework

In addition, there was a midterm and a final. Unlike in Grammar Lab, the exercises and discussion board were optional interactions. While the course was technically ten weeks, week six and ten required no assignment turn in.

Readings

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

  • The Chicago Manual of Style 17th Edition
  • The Copyeditor’s Handbook: A Guide for Book Publishing and Corporate Communications 3rd Edition by Amy Einsohn
  • Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary (Laminated Cover) 11th Edition
  • Editing in Word 2016 2nd Edition by Adrienne Montgomerie

The first seven or eight weeks revolved around The Copyeditor’s Handbook. The Montgomerie PDF was used in the last two weeks. The other two were more reference texts, and I found that during the assignments, the professor requested we follow The Copyeditor’s Handbook for style choices. It seemed both the CMoS and dictionary were not necessary purchases for this course. That’s not to say another professor wouldn’t put them to more use.

The Copyeditor’s Handbook is a wonderful text. There is a reason it is recommended by many copyeditors. It takes something like the CMoS and simplifies and compacts it into a readable format. The readings are very manageable for the week. I would estimate spending at least an hour or two per week for an in-depth reading and note-taking.

There was only one assignment that used the Mongomerie PDF, so I am not sure the $35 felt justified. It is an interesting text that could be helpful to someone new to Word, however.

Assignments

Each week was a different assignment of varying difficulty. Please refer to my initial post regarding the content and specifics. I noted there that the quantity was a lot less than my Grammar Lab course, but the quality was clearly higher. That was definitely the case. Besides the one required Discussion Board post, there were two types of assignments: quizzes and homework.

The quizzes were ten questions each focusing almost entirely on understanding the reading. This sounds simple in theory, but it’s easy to overthink it. Each question was worth two points, and I spent a lot more time than I probably should have to look for a very specific answer in a book.

The two homework assignments were similar but with a different style. The first was handwritten; we had to download, print, write, scan, and upload the assignment. You may need to keep that in mind if you don’t have a printer. I had to copyedit the page using the handwritten copyediting symbols. The second homework assignment was to transfer some handwritten copyediting work into Word, which I found helpful. I spent a lot more time each week than I thought I would. I would estimate an hour for the quizzes and around two to three hours for each assignment depending on previous experience.

Midterm and Final

The midterm involved electronically editing a non-fiction passage. The final was a lot more in-depth with six sections.

  1. Short answers about the readings
  2. Copyediting short sentences
  3. True or False with corrections
  4. Fill in the blank about the readings
  5. Light copyedit
  6. Style sheet for #5

It felt like they wanted such specific answers, and I had a hard time finding that exact answer in our readings. This part doesn’t come across as helping someone become a better editor. At least the copyediting portions were challenging. I estimate taking around three to four hours depending on your experience.

Professor

I enjoyed my professor. I found her very knowledgeable and helpful. She responded to discussion posts and emails quickly, usually within a day, no more than two. She even had fun discussion boards to encourage more engagement, though my group seemed to want no part in it, mostly sticking to questions about the assignment or issues with Blackboard.

That is where my one point of contention with my professor lies. She seemed to have many issues with Blackboard “not working right this semester.” That may have been because we had a holiday week in the beginning of our course, which meant all of her announcements set to auto-post were a week ahead. This caused quite a bit of confusion and sometimes panic when thinking about missed assignments. And similarly to my Grammar Lab professor, she reused posts without changing the dates from previous terms, so we had one announcement that referenced Thanksgiving, despite taking the course in the summer.

Final Thoughts

As with Grammar Lab, 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 you previous background with editing and grammar. I can only attest to my experience in this specific course with this professor.

Once again, the real question is if I learned anything. Yes, of course. I wouldn’t say it was an eye-opening experience, but it was extremely helpful to see the mistakes I made and have a comment as to why it was a mistake.

With two courses under my belt, I can admit to being a little disappointed with the “lecture” portion of the course. Both times the PDF given by the professor is just a simple PowerPoint slide presentation of very simplified aspects of the reading. Very top level notes. This is frustrating, and I felt it never added anything to what I was learning. I am not sure if this is something that is standard across the entire program, but they did seem similar in style. While they have always included additional papers or links for reading, I wish there was something personal and a more in-depth from each professor.

There were definitely aspects I wish were not such a focus, like the random questions regarding the reading, such as “what are the five basic mechanical elements of copyediting?” Just show me how to do them, not quiz me on the naming. However, it is important to know these aspects of the field, I just didn’t like how much of the work it took up. Keep in mind this is just the introduction to copyediting, and there is more to come.

Next up: Copyediting II

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