It’s a catch-22 that plagues many a new editor: You can’t attract clients without a solid editing background—but you can’t build up your editing chops without clients giving you work.
The University of California-San Diego (UCSD) Extension offers a solution—a comprehensive copyediting certificate program, completed totally online.
I know what you’re thinking. I’ve heard about programs like these. Someone’s going to charge me money and then ramble about grammar for a couple of hours.
But the UCSD program is different. “Copyediting is such an intense craft,” says instructor Erin Brenner, herself an accomplished freelancer. “You can’t learn it in a day-long, or even a month-long course. It takes practice, feedback, and time to master.”
UCSD understands this; the full program takes 9–15 months. Graduates earn not only a certificate but a strong grasp of the art of copyediting.
Who’s it for?
The program is designed for individuals just starting out as editors, so classes begin with the basics. The first editing course covers standard editing marks, tracking changes in Word, and communicating with authors via queries. Later courses teach maintenance of an author’s voice, creation of style sheets, and use of the Chicago Manual of Style, culminating in the production of an original edited manuscript.
The four required courses cost $395 apiece; a selection of elective courses, such as social media for editors and an introduction to scientific/medical editing, are also offered each term. And yes, the program can be squeezed in to a busy schedule: students take only one course at a time. Many have full-time day jobs and complete assignments in the evenings.
What are courses like?
Although all coursework takes place online, classes are not self-directed. Students log in regularly to the program’s Blackboard web portal and spend about 10 hours per week viewing presentations, participating in forums, completing assigned readings, doing homework, and taking tests. Class sizes are small, and instructors hold office hours to respond to student questions and provide feedback.
“Students come to us looking to begin careers as freelancers,” Brenner says. “Our program gives them the skills and knowledge to do that.”
It may not be a replacement for the demands (and curveballs) of client editing work, but for fledgling freelancers looking to stand out, it’s a great start.
Mary Dixon is a writer and editor with Dragonfly Editorial.