Professional Editing

What is special about Western’s program?

Western’s editing program is different than many others:

  • It includes training in the visual aspects of editing as well as the verbal, covering layout, color, and use of photographs and informational graphics.
  • Classes are taught in a university computer lab, where students learn and use software programs that are standard in the field.
  • Grammar instruction is taught as a hybrid class, allowing individualized, self-paced work as well as classroom sessions with the instructor.
  • Instruction covers approaches for editing both one’s own writing and the work of others, as applied in a range of media.
  • Students pursue individual projects toward the end of the program, with the opportunity to produce professional-level portfolio pieces.

The editing program offers a sequence of classes for people in the community who enjoy working on the content and appearance of publications and Web sites and want to bring their editing skills to a higher professional level.

What do editors do?

Editors do a lot more than just correcting grammar errors and placing punctuation marks. They contribute to the overall look or design of a publication and work with budgets, circulation and advertising. They assign stories, shape them for publication, coach writers and photographers and write headlines and summaries. They must be adept at designing layouts, working with illustrations, and deciding the best way to present material to their audience. They apply ethical and legal considerations and maintain relationships with their communities of readers. All of these tasks fall to editors whether the publication is a printed community newsletter, a textbook, a family memoir or a corporate Web site.

Where do editors work?

With the growth of the Internet, many people who work in administrative, research or community positions now find they are posting reports, press releases, newsletters, speeches, background pieces and more, directly to the public. Perhaps they are asked to help edit a company site that hosts bloggers or to create headlines, leads and RSS feeds for events or product releases. At these times, they are working as editors. Editors also work in more traditional media positions, including newspapers, magazines, online news sites and book publishers. They are employed at marketing and public relations firms, in government public information offices and in companies that produce publications for employees and association members.

What are the prerequisites for the program?

Having a B.A. or A.A. degree is recommended, but other qualities are also important, such as a love of language. If you enjoy reading and sometimes share an article you think is well written, occasionally explore a question about grammar, appreciate a deadline because it helps you focus and complete a writing task, or care that words should be used to say what they mean? Do you find that writing and revising a piece helps you to clarify your thinking? If this sounds like you, the world of media, readers, consumers and the editing profession all need your contributions.

What kinds of skills are taught in the Editing Program?

In the fall, coursework begins with copy editing, the common tasks across a range of media. In a computer lab setting, students work with story shapes and leads, make trims, write headlines, brush up on grammar and delve into AP and Chicago style guides. Discussions cover working smoothly with writers and applying legal and ethical considerations. Through guest speakers, sessions explore editing careers and trends in a range of fields.

In the winter, the class works with visual components for page layouts, including photographs, informational graphics, typography and four-color processes for both print and online publication. Sessions involve learning InDesign, part of Adobe Creative Suite software. Winter is also the time for in-depth work in grammar, building the necessary knowledge for professional editing. Grammar for Editors is a hybrid course, combining online instruction with several class meetings.

In the spring, the focus moves to substantive and developmental editing–envisioning a project from its beginning, filling gaps, polishing the pieces and handling the publication process. This includes planning work flow, making estimates and creating bids. Discussions and speakers cover professional development, strategies for career growth and current trends. Students will independently take a project from initial stages to completion and create significant pieces for their portfolios or work places.

Do instructors teach for beginners or expect some experience?

Because class sizes are limited, instructors can address varying skill levels as students move through hands-on projects. Most editing students find their knowledge and comfort levels are not equal in all areas: the wordsmiths may be less adept at layout and design, while the photographers may need to work more intensely on grammar. Instructors are experienced in both teaching and professional editing and will reflect today’s workplace, where the team approach values individual talents and contributions. Beginning editors will become grounded, while those with more experience will sharpen and polish their skills.

What about the costs?

The program does not involve academic credit, which helps keep costs down. Fees are comparable to the charges for editing courses offered online, yet this program has the advantages of classroom contact with instructors as well as hands-on work in a university computer lab.


Page Updated 12.18.2014