Shelley Reid .


English 392: Editing for Audience, Style, and Voice

Core Assignments


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Homework SP1: Style/Audience SP2: Edit an Expert
Sentence Log SP3: Revise Expert SP4: Style Translation
  SP5: Flyer/Choice Live Editing Project

Homework: Corrections + Three Explanations (C+3E)

Complete all homework exercises as assigned. Check the key provided (in your book or on the wiki), and clearly mark all corrections: errors you overlooked as well as incorrect edits you made. Use a highlighter, colored pencil, or other distinguishing marking.

Then choose three questions out of the whole day's assignment that you got wrong or that you thought were complicated: where possible, choose 3 that don't resemble one another (i.e., not three instances of spelling errors).  

For each one, write a 2-4 sentence explanation of the difficulty you encountered, addressing some of the following questions or others like them: Why do you think you (almost) missed it? What were you thinking at the time? Is this a rule you know? Did you go look it up, and if so, what did/didn't you understand? What might you do differently as an editor in order to be better next time? Turn this in with your homework, in print or online as directed.

Homework will be graded H (Honors, 100%), S (Satisfactory, 80%) or U (Unsatisfactory, 60%) based on completion of all steps and the quality of your reflective explanations. To earn "H"-level credit, your explanations need to go beyond identifying the error ("I should have ___") to reflective commentary, you should use precise editorial terminology, demonstrate new learning, reveal unexpected complications, explore the contexts in which the error occurred, address editorial gray-areas, ask questions, and/or note patterns or similarities that are of interest to other editors.

Weekly Sentence Log


To increase your awareness of how sentences are put together, your ability to articulate that awareness, and your understanding of how a range of readers might respond to a particular stylistic approach.

Due by 11:59 pm every Monday: 3 samples + explanations

Skim your two magazines, your two Prose Stylist authors, or any other text at hand looking for model sentences to share with your editing peers. Each week, you need to provide three examples of stylistic writing (cite the author & source text names), and briefly explain (2-3 sentences) what grammatical, syntactic, lingusitic, rhetorical, and/or stylistic feature of each one caught your eye. Post your sentences to your Sentence Log page on the course wiki.

After the first week, one of these three sentences must come from a peer's Log; you must choose a different peer each time. Include his/her sentence and comment, and add your own comment to it, expanding the discussion rather than just saying "I agree." When you've saved your page, TAG it with your peer's name so s/he can find out who's looking in on his/her sentences.

Logs will be scored 3-4 times during the semester. To earn H-level credit, you might try to

* pick sentences or short clusters of sentences that demonstrate a principle we've discussed recently (or are about to discuss) in class, and/or

* pick sentences or short clusters of sentences that demonstrate a vivid or unusual approach, voice, or style, and/or

* explain with some care what is and isn't present in the sentence(s), and what the effect on a reader might be, and/or

* explain with some care the differences (and consequences thereof) between sentences/styles you've demonstrated in your log, and/or

* try your hand at imitating the sentence, and note what was easy/difficult/interesting about that exercise.

You may take one week off from your Log this semester without penalty. Everyone gets Fall Break Monday and post-Thanksgiving Monday off.

If minimum expectations are met (regular, timely, complete Logs), some additional credit may be granted for posting additional model sentences + explanations, published/public examples of bad sentences + explanations, and/or additional conversations with peers about sentences. Please highlight any such contributions as EXTRA. Sentence Logs will be graded H (honors, 100%), S (satisfactory, 80%) or U (unsatisfactory, 60%).

SP 1: Style/Audience Analysis

Choose one article from each of your two chosen magazines to compare stylistically across three measurements. The articles should be

* at least 2-3 magazine pages long (with each page including substantial text)

* similar in some key way (both special feature articles or advice articles, e.g.)

* fairly mainstream for that magazine, as far as you can tell 

You'll need to turn in both articles: photocopy, cut out, or scan+post. You'll probably want to annotate/mark-up the articles as you go; you can turn in your annotated copy or a clean copy.

Begin with a paragraph or so analyzing the target audience of each magazine. Drawing on specific examples regarding the other articles, layout, style, advertising, regular features/departments, visuals, pull quotes, organization, or other macro-level elements, explain who the key readers are for each publication and why you think they read the magazine. 

Keeping that audience/purpose in mind, analyze the chosen pair of articles in three different ways, each time with the goal of using examples to suggest how a writer/editor might use different approaches in preparing a text for each magazine.

First, do some counting in a section of each article, and in a paragraph or so, report on any surprising similarities or telling differences at the word/sentence level. You might count words per sentence, adjectives or active verbs, modifier clauses, simple vs. complex sentences, first- or third-person references, slang or insider-terminology usage, etc. You might run a sample through a readability rater, like this one or this one or this one, which will do some of the counting for you. 

Second, look at pieces of the structure of each essay, in order to provide a paragraph or so of advice about particular strategies authors/editors might follow in shaping an article for each magazine. What do you notice about the title, the opening/closing paragraphs, the use of sections or formats or visuals? How might you describe the rhythm or the dance-steps of each piece from beginning to end? 

Third, in a paragraph or so, try to articulate the mood or tone of each piece, which is created through content/topic as well as through word choice. Should an author/editor aim for a mood or tone that is reasoned or exuberantinformative or entertainingcautious or encouraging, factual or humanized, concise or elegant, or some other approach or combination of approaches? This may be the most difficult aspect to pin down; sometimes it's easiest to demonstrate tone via comparison, either between one article and the other or between what the author wrote and what s/he could have written.

Your analysis may but need not be integrated into an essay-essay; you should aim for 500-900 words of explanation. If you're running short, look for additional examples; if you're running long, try to focus on just the most interesting similarities or differences.

SP 2: Edited "Expert" Essay

Download and review the "expert" essay you have been assigned, written by a pseudonymous peer during in-class writing. Reformat as needed to print out a double-spaced version of it with 1.25" margins, and complete a medium-level copy-edit with the goal of publishing this selection in a topic-focused magazine, for a column directed toward people who are new to this particular topic. That is, if the essay is about Siamese cats, you'd imagine editing for a magazine about cats or pet care or animals. (Don't worry too much about a particular "house style" unless you need to do so to make a decision, say, about the Oxford comma.) This text is intended to become a short column of about 400 words.

In addition to copyediting for correctness and clarity at a medium level, you need to suggest four substance revisions, the kind that occur at a more intensive editing level: note where and why the author should substantively change, move, expand, and delete a section (at least 1-2 sentences) of the text. (These should be different sections.)

Use legible proofreaders' marks and queries on hard copy, and attach any additional comment(s) for the author (for these, you may use a separate page and/or sticky notes). Submit two copies of the edited version ("signed" with your own pseudonym): one for Prof. Reid, and one for the author. To Prof. Reid's copy, attach a commentary (1-2 paragraphs) explaining any guiding principles you used and/or difficulties you encountered.

SP 3: Revised "Expert" Essay

Review the editorial comments you received on your expertise text. Before you make any changes, write an initial response commentary to share with Prof. Reid: a paragraph or so noting your reactions to both the general experience of having this piece edited and/or to specific suggestions made by the editor, agreeable or less so.

Next, revise your text in response to the editorial comments. (This is not the time to turn it into a brand new masterpiece; you may make a few authorial emendations beyond the editor's suggestions if you deem it necessary.) You can download a copy from the SP2 page.

Write a short memo to the editor: use a clean, professional, single-spaced memo format. You should respond briefly but generally to the overall suggestions; note/explain any editorial suggestions you did not accept; and explan any unrecommended additional changes you made. Selections from your memo will be posted anonymously to the wiki (by Prof. Reid) to enhance our discussions about how writers and editors collaborate.

Finally, go back and expand the commentary you started writing for Prof. Reid. Include any additional reflections or concerns about revising this essay. Please also briefly note what would have made this experience better for you as an author, and what might have made it worse. Turn in (hardcopy) the originally edited copy, your revision, and your reflective paragraphs; continue using your pseudonym rather than your real name.

SP 4: Style/Audience Translation

Specific details TBA.

SP 5: Informational Poster/Flyer OR Editor's Choice

Poster or Flyer Option

Review the "expertise" document you have chosen for this assignment; where necessary, perform a light copy-edit and be sure to check up on any information that does not seem correct so that you're working with clean, correct copy.

Next, envision a target audience in their "natural habitat," and produce a neat mock-up of a single-page poster, flyer, brochure, webpage or equivalent that incorporates the most important information in a way that will reach that audience. Use at least four visual design elements (such as font size/type, layout, graphics, illustrations, color) that are appropriate for that context and that support the transfer of information.

Cut, condense, supplement, and/or re-organize information as needed (a heavy edit may be necessary). Don't be a wimp, and don't be a text-addict: successfully cramming all 256 words from the original onto your poster won't win you any awards.

This is a rough design: do not spend time agonizing over getting all the visual details exactly right. Depending on your level of facility with design software, you may choose to use placeholders ("add picture of X here"), design notes ("dark green font"), and/or collage or hand-drawn elements to indicate what you envision.

Bring/post two copies of the copyedited document and the mock-up: one for Prof. Reid (turned in or posted to your Private page), and one, without your name (posted to our display page or brought to class). (This second copy need not be full color.) To Prof. Reid's copy, attach a commentary explaining any guiding principles you used and/or difficulties you encountered.

Editor's Choice Option

Choose a short real-world document to edit: fact or art, hard-copy or online, text-only or text + visual design. You may edit an entire short document, or edit 1-3 pages' worth (or equivalent) of a longer document. You may choose a document from work, find one in the outside world, or solicit one from a friend or peer; be sure you have any necessary permission to use and share this document. It should be in need of enough editing to show off your skills, and need a kind of editing you can and wish to undertake. You should provide at least a medium-level of copyediting.

Submit an original copy and the marked-up document (include a memo to the author if that seems appropriate). Attach a commentary explaining any guiding principles you used and/or difficulties you encountered; also note how this work demonstrates your knowledge and/or growth and/or interests as an editor.


Collaborative Live Editing Project

Working with a partner or pair of partners, you'll choose 1-2 texts from anonymous submissions by students in other English classes this semester; edit them for correctness, style, cohesion, and audience impact; and communicate with the authors about your suggested revisions. More about this assignment will be posted later in the term.


Last updated October 2009 Email Shelley Reid