high-school-paper-sam-2Yes, friends, I can admit it.

I was not always a perfect copyeditor.

I lay the evidence before you: a 10th-grade book report on Kurt Vonnegut’s Slaughterhouse Five.

In case you can’t read my teacher Mr. Vaughn’s comments, here they are in all their harsh glory.

“Wow! The subject matter here is excellent. Your writing is insightful and unusually readable. You might review some grammar rules, as you have several major, and careless, errors. Grade: A+ for content, D for grammar.”

Ouch!

Major, careless errors? What gives?

Apparently, I wasn’t always great with grammar. And sometime between 10th grade and now, I improved. And let me be frank: It didn’t happen in college.

Instead, when I decided to be a copyeditor, I sought out the professional training I needed.

Here’s what I did.

Study. I started by spending hours reading and taking notes. I studied books like the Chicago Manual of Style, the Associated Press Stylebook, and the New York Public Library Writer’s Guide to Style and Usage. I didn’t understand everything I was reading, but I knew that it would someday be relevant to my work.

Practice. Next I picked up two workbooks: Mark My Words and Substance and Style. (Both are out of print but can be found on Amazon.) I worked my way through each one, end to end, dutifully filling out each exercise and grading myself according to the key in the back of the book.

Attend. I also sought out training from experts in the field. I attended several classes offered by EEI Communications, including their Intensive Introduction to Copyediting, Substantive Editing, and Style Summit courses.

Continue. And I haven’t stopped. I regularly attend conferences, classes, and webinars offered by groups like IABC, Ragan, and Copyediting.com. I also read newsletters published by Ann Wylie, Daphne Gray-Grant, and Michael Stelzner, just to name a few.

In fact, despite all my training, I’m still afraid of falling behind. Maybe that’s because technology is changing the way we work so dramatically. Or maybe it’s because I want our company to be a leader in the communications industry, not a laggard.

So if you can’t find me some afternoon, look in the easy chair in the corner. I’ll probably be curled up studying the latest edition of Copyediting. I’m just reading it on my laptop these days, instead of paper.

Samantha Enslen runs Dragonfly Editorial.

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