From Proofreading to Plain Language: A Review of SFU’s Editing Program

by Amy Haagsma

In September 2012, I attended an information session at SFU on the Continuing Studies Writing and Communications program. When the presenters spoke about career options in editing, I realized that I had been an “undercover editor” for quite some time. Although my title did not include the word “editor,” this described a large part of what I did at work. I decided to take a few courses in the Editing Certificate program to learn more about the field and improve my skills.

Whether you’re new to editing or a seasoned pro, the program has something for everyone. SFU offers a variety of editing courses and the only editing certificate program in Western Canada. The courses can help you learn the craft, formalize your qualifications, brush up in certain areas, or expand your service offering. The material also forms a good basis for EAC certification.

Courses Offered
Courses can be taken individually or as part of the certificate program. The certificate program comprises 130 hours of core courses and a minimum of 20 hours of electives. Core courses include editing fundamentals such as substantive editing, copy editing, and proofreading, and additional topics such as ethics and legal issues, and document design and production. Elective courses are quite varied and provide an opportunity to develop specialized skills, such as editing fiction, indexing, or plain language principles.

If you are new to editing, you’ll likely want to start off with Editors and Editing: An Introduction. This course covers the various stages of editing as well as several different genres, including book, magazine, and corporate editing. By the end of the course, you should have a good idea of whether a career in the industry would be a good fit for you.

For those on the certificate path, the last course you’ll take is Final Project: Editing, a comprehensive final assignment that draws on knowledge gained throughout the program. The elements tested include substantive editing, copy editing and style sheet development, proofreading accuracy, proper use of revision symbols, and communication with authors.

Course Delivery and Fees
All courses are part-time, with most offered in the evening or on weekends. Many courses can also be taken through distance education or online. (By the Fall 2014 semester, all courses will be available on the Web.) Course fees range from $250 to $830, with most falling in the lower end of the range. You can also request to challenge a course if you have demonstrated knowledge in a subject area.

All of SFU’s editing instructors are active in the publishing industry, and many are members of local and national professional associations.

A Personal Assessment
Taking SFU’s Certificate in Editing has helped me improve and formalize my editing skills, and has given me the confidence to call myself an editor. The instructors are excellent and more than willing to help students perfect their craft, and they bring with them a wealth of industry experience.

Overall, the course offering is excellent, although I found some of the elective courses more relevant than some of the core courses. I also found it difficult to choose only 20 hours of electives and will likely take additional courses after completing the program requirements. In particular, I would like to take the onscreen editing elective, as most of the coursework for other classes is done on paper. While performing hard-copy mark-up is a valuable skill for all editors to learn, the majority of editing work is now done on computers, and I would suggest that more time be devoted to this aspect of the job.

One of the big advantages of the program is its flexibility. Courses can be taken outside of work hours as well as individually.

Next Steps
Applications for the certificate program will next be accepted in May 2014, but you can start taking courses anytime. Check out SFU’s upcoming courses and workshops to start planning your schedule. Not sure if the program is right for you? Consider registering for a career consultation with a participating instructor.

Amy Haagsma is a marketing communications professional and a student in SFU’s Editing Certificate program.

Image by Shutterstock.

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