Shelley Reid .


English 503, Theory and Practice of Editing

Course Assignments


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Assigments Page

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Short Projects 1-3 Short Projects 4-6 Short Reports
Final Project Special Events Go to WebCT Site


Short Projects

Project 1: Edit "Schooling" Essay

Review the "schooling" essay you have been assigned. 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 essay in an orientation booklet given to undergraduates when they declare their ____ major.

In addition to editing for correctness and style, you need to suggest four substance revisions: 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 proofreaders' marks on hard copy, and attach any additional comment(s) for the author. Submit two copies: one for Prof. Reid, and one ("signed" with your own first pseudonym) with the author's pseudonym only on an attached sticky note. To Prof. Reid's copy, attach a paragraph explaining any guiding principles you used and/or difficulties you encountered.


Project 2: Revise and Respond to Edited "Schooling" Essay

Review the editorial comments you received on your essay. Before making any changes, write an initial response 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, agreeable or less so.

Revise your essay per 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.) Write a short memo to the editor noting/explaining any edits you did not accept and any additional changes you made. Post the revised essay and the memo to WebCT, using your first pseudonym.

Expand your response for Prof. Reid, including 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 the originally edited copy, your revised copy, your memo, and your reflective paragraphs.

Project 3: Edit and Format an Informational Document

Review the informational document you have been assigned. Save and double-space a copy of it and use Track Changes and Comment to perform a light copy-edit. Be sure to query any information that does not seem correct. Print this out.

Next, envision a target audience in their "natural habitat," and produce a neat mock-up of a single-page document (or equivalent) that incorporates the key information. 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.

This is a rough design: do not spend time agonizing over getting all the 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. If you are "ballparking" textual elements and it appears that you will need to substantially cut or reorganize the original text, you may do so and/or separately indicate how/why you plan to do so.

Submit two copies of the copyedited document and the mock-up: one for Prof. Reid, and one ("signed" with your own second pseudonym) with the author's pseudonym only on an attached sticky note. (This second copy need not be full color.) To Prof. Reid's copy, attach a paragraph explaining any guiding principles you used and/or difficulties you encountered.

Project 4: Selection Memo

Create the basic concept for a newsletter, journal, or other collection related to one of our Writing Banks: a publication advising college students who have just declared their major, one providing general how-to assistance, or one explaining what editors do. In a paragraph or two, give the title and describe the target audience and mission of your publication, and outline your top 4-6 criteria for choosing articles to go into it.

Choose 3-4 essays for your next issue from among our submissions. Briefly explain why you chose each one, and what order you'd put them in (why?). Note the degree/type of editing that each might require. Also, note one essay that "came close" but that you did not choose: briefly explain why.

Submit one copy, in memo format, to Prof. Reid.


Project 5: Editor's Choice

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. Be sure it needs enough editing to show off your skills, and that it needs a kind of editing you can and wish to undertake. You should provide at least a medium-level of editing.

Submit an original copy and the marked-up document (include a memo to the author if that seems appropriate); attach a paragraph or two explaining any guiding principles you used and/or difficulties you encountered.

Project 6: Revision of Project 1, 3, or 5

Choose one of your editing projects, and revise & expand your work with it. By revise, I mean perfect your editing: increase your attentiveness, accuracy, and rhetorical savvy. By expand, I mean do more: increase the intensity of your editing, broaden the range of elements you attend to, shift the project to another context or medium, and/or edit more text.

Submit the original-original, the original edited copy, and the final edited copy. Attach a paragraph or two explaining your guiding principles, identifying the major elements of your revision and expansion (why these?), and noting how this document exemplifies your learning this semester.

Note: This project is worth 10% of your final grade. However, you have the option to drop one grade from Projects 1-5 and make this project worth 15%. If you take this route, you should indicate your intention to do so in your explanatory paragraphs.


Reports and Exercises

Area of Interest Report

Browse the books on editing that are on reserve at the JC library or on the shelf in the English Department lounge (or others that you own). Choose one or more selections that are of interest to you as an editor or professional and prepare an informal but lively and focused five-minute report. You should discuss the "sticky points" that make this topic worth considering carefully, and emphasize the usefulness of the information for a broad range of editorial professionals. If you have chosen to report on a specialized issue or subfield, be sure to draw parallels and contrasts with other elements of editing work.

5 Rules Report

Choose 5 copyediting rules, rule-clusters, or style-guidelines to master and/or explore in depth this semester. At least one should be word-level, one punctuation-related, and one sentence- or style-related. This assignment will most benefit you if you choose rules about issues that trip you up, that are common to your workplace or area of interest, and/or that aren't as straightforward as they (first) seem.

You should consult multiple texts that discuss each rule, and assemble both explanations and examples of well-edited prose that involve the rule. You'll need to construct 2-3 original sentences for each rule that can help other editors learn how to spot and correct problems, even in tricky cases; these sentences plus your brief explanations of the rules will comprise the report you prepare for your classmates.

At the end of the semester, you'll draw on your knowledge of these rules to create a set of incorrect sentences to go into the pool of questions for the final exam.

Exercises and homework will generally will be marked as check-plus, check, or incomplete, and count toward this part of your final grade.

Final Project Overview

For your final project, you will work with an editorial team to select, edit, arrange, and publish a short anthology (3-7 pieces) of work from English 701, to be shared with future English 701 students as exemplary documents. You will be responsible, individually and/or with a partner or group members, for the following tasks:

  • Reviewing submissions from a range of academic genres

  • Selecting submissions to include

  • Creating a working plan for editing the anthology

  • Creating a style sheet for the anthology

  • Editing 7-10 pages' worth of prose (longer essays may be shared by partners)

  • Writing the author concerning your edits

  • Formatting, arranging, and proofreading the final documents

  • Writing a final report on the project

Your final project (40% of your final grade) will earn a group grade (20%), an individual editing grade for the text that was primarily your responsibility (10%), and a participation grade (10%) that is determined in part by your and your peers' evaluation of your contributions.

Additional information about this project will be given to you later in the semester.

Special Events

Editing Roundtable: March 24

As part of our class meeting on March 24, we'll hear from and talk with a collection of editors and publishers about the work they do.  Currently scheduled to appear:

  • Leasa Burton, Executive Editor, Bedford/St. Martin's Publishers

  • Karita dos Santos, Managing Editor, Bedford/St. Martin's Publishers

  • Douglas Eyman, Senior Editor, Kairos: Rhetoric, Technology, Pedagogy

  • Roger Lathbury, Publisher and Editor, Orchises Press

  • Others TBA

Your friends and colleagues are invited to attend this presentation.  Exact time and location will be announced in February.

Careers in Writing and Communications: March 27

Graduates of Mason's English and Communications departments will speak and answer questions about their careers in writing, editing, public relations and journalism.

5:30-7:00 p.m. in Johnson Center Room A.  Presenters TBA.


Last updated January 2008.Email Shelley Reid