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Grammar Lab – UCSD Copyediting: Initial Thoughts

If you are looking to take the University of California – San Diego’s Copyediting Certificate program, your first required course will be Grammar Lab. It can be taken simultaneously with the second course, Copyediting I. This is the only course in the program that can be taken at the same time as another. While some of the course descriptions give an estimate for the time you will spend both online and offline, I wasn’t sure how my schedule would work out, so I opted to take them alone, despite this meaning an extra three months of work.


When you register, there are several sections to choose from. The only thing you are deciding here is the teacher, as each requires the same books. The course itself may differ in style, but one could assume you will be getting the same substance. I can only speak for what was available within my course from my teacher. I make no promises that it will be exactly the same experience for you.

Course Requirements

The book required for my course is The McGraw-Hill Handbook of English Grammar and Usage, 2nd Edition by Mark Lester and Larry Beason. This book covers the following topics:

  1. Grammar
    • Parts of speech
    • Basic phrases
    • Sentences and clauses
    • Verb forms
    • Verbals
  2. Usage
    • Writing complete sentences
    • Subject-verb agreement
    • Pronoun problems
    • Verb problems
    • Modification
    • Commas
    • Apostrophes
    • Semicolons and colons
    • Quotation marks
    • Capitalization
    • Parallelism
    • Grammar etiquette for digital communication

In addition, you need to register for Blackboard, which is where all of the coursework will take place.


Grammar Lab is ten weeks long. Each week will focus on a particular topic addressed in the Handbook. You have a required reading including a mini-lecture by the professor followed by ten to twenty exercises about the reading. You can retake the exercises as many times as you want, though I have seen some with limits.

Approximately halfway through the course, you must complete the midterm. The final exam is due by the end of the ten weeks. Other than those two exams, nothing has a due date. You can work at your own pace but are expected to complete everything by the end of the course. The professor starts discussion board posts ranging from issues addressed by the book to more real-world implications of editing, and you are asked to participate.

Initial Thoughts

I am in the midst of week one and have completed the first lesson. The reading was straightforward, though I was really disappointed with the lecture. My professor offered a PDF version, an audio file, and a transcribed version. It was very basic, as in practically the same as the book. Now, week one is about parts of speech, so I am hoping as the content gets more complicated, the lectures will be a little more in-depth. I have spoken with people who have previously taken a course with the professor I chose, and they informed me that he isn’t the greatest user of Blackboard but he is great at answering emails. This is a little disheartening, but it could mean better one-on-one interaction when I need it. It could also mean that a different professor could yield better and more interesting lectures.

The exercises varied in difficulty, though it felt like the Old-English sentence-structure made some more difficult than they needed to be. Many of the examples used sentences from books written over a century ago. It made things more challenging and had me thinking a little harder, but there were times that I felt like I was purposely being tricked. There was one exercise that covered information from the next week’s reading, so that was a little frustrating as well.

All that being said, I am excited to keep moving. I did not have high expectations for the content of this course. This had to do with the subject matter and nothing to do with the school or professor. I wanted to jump right into the deep end of copyediting, but I am glad that I am brushing up on something I haven’t studied in years.

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  1. Rachel

    Thank you very much for writing about the copyediting program! I haven’t found a lot of information about it online so your posts have been very useful. I’m going to take the Grammar Lab course this summer and am following your advice regarding looking into the different professors before signing up. Could you let me know the name of the Facebook group you mentioned so I could join it? Also, were there any live sessions you had to attend for any of the courses? I’m based in Spain so I want to be sure the time difference won’t be a problem.

    • KyleMarie

      Sure thing! The Facebook Group is called UCSD Copyediting Students and Grads. It is helpful even beyond finishing the program.

      I did not have to do any live sessions. However, the deadline for assignments will likely be in some US timezone. If I remember correctly, it was Pacific.

      I’m glad I could help make the decision a little easier, and I wish you luck on the journey!

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