copyediting, proofreading, teaching, Writing

Proofreading and Copyediting Dilemma: The Art of Reading

I find myself in a bit of a dilemma, one that should be easily avoidable for someone like me. Copyediting and proofreading is a skill that is a combination of the art of reading and the art of writing. As a teacher, I spend a lot of time pouring over the details of my young writers’ work; I want them to be correct and creative. But first, I have to teach them to write. This, of course, requires a certain attention to grammar for the sake of readability.

A fundamental problem that happens with young writers is that they don’t understand the power of punctuation. There are either too many commas or no commas at all. And don’t even get me started on semi-colons; it’s too much to bear to think about. There are usually always periods, but usually after a long, rambling run-on sentence. Did I mention the commas?

Don’t get me wrong; I understand why the problem exists. My students are all writers in their own way, but social media writing does not translate well in any setting other than social media writing. And generally speaking, excellent grammar is not always the marker of a great writer (this is why copyeditors exist). Nevertheless, I have to hammer on the grammar to make the writings readable, then hammer on the art to make the writings creative.

Sometimes creativity necessitates the breaking of certain grammar rules. It’s a necessary sacrifice. One that I see all the time as a professional copyeditor and proofreader, and this is where my dilemma comes in.

Proofreading Code of Conduct

I had to do a proofreading job recently, and I was in full teacher mode because, well, there were dangling and misplaced modifiers every where. Every description of every place, person, or thing included a dangling modifier. Of course my instinct was to fix all of the dangling because in a sea of nouns, I couldn’t tell what was being modified.

I wanted to correct these dangly bits. But then I noticed that the color begin to drain from the text. That’s a problem. A book without a voice is a terrible thing. So, I contacted my editor to get some parameters, and she told me that some of those dangling bits are literary. And she was right. And so I let the modifiers dangle, cringing a little in the process.

This led me to reconsider the work of the proofreader versus the copy editor. Proofreaders generally check for grammar, mechanics, punctuation, and syntax. Copy editors check for some of those things plus accuracy, mechanics, consistency, organization, clarity, and more. In some of those sentences, I thought the meaning was confusing. However, this meant that a copy editor didn’t think so, and likely signed off on those sentences. If I were to proceed with too many changes, I would be overstepping my proofreader role.

So I deleted some of my suggestions, probably a bit too much. But the writer’s poetic style remained intact. I guess we can call that a win, and I had to remind myself about the limits of proofreading. Here is the capital-T-truth: while proofreading is less work, copyediting is much easier. Go figure.

Reading is Art

While I sit here stressing over whether I did an adequate job on the project, I am reminded of this simple principle: reading is art. Copyediting and proofreading are artistic endeavors that facilitate the reading experience, an experience that can rise to the level of art if the writing is good.

I have to remind my professional self that what I do in the class room can actually limit me as a copyeditor. I also have to remind myself to allow my students to be creative and not just correct. Sometimes, breaking the rules of grammar is necessary for the sake of capturing experience. Knowing when to do that—or better, when to allow that—is the major dilemma of copyediting and proofreading.

blog, Writing

Spring Semester 2019

I’ve not paid much attention to my blog of late because I’ve been paying attention to my students. We are about 5 weeks into the semester here, and I’m still trying to get my bearings. However, even though I feel like I am trying to catch a speeding train, I’m having fun.

Funny how that works.

I am teaching a Strategic Communications course, and I love it. The course is geared towards young advertisers, public relations students, and marketers, and it is about studying, pitching, and writing narratives for various products, events, or ideas. The writing style, though, is different. It’s a different kind of storytelling, one that focuses on understanding the nature of branding and people’s response to brands. I’ve never taught a class like this before, but it is shaping up to be the most fun class of the semester.

My other two classes are Technical Writing for Engineers and a general education Rhetoric and Writing course. Tech Writing is always fun and challenging to teach because how do you make writing Usability Reports fun? It’s doable. You just have to be a little crazy.

The gen ed writing course is the one that I have the most experience teaching, and it is proving to be the most challenging. The main reason is that it is a required course. Most students don’t want to be there, and it shows. Since I don’t want to be one of those teachers who lecture, oblivious to their student’s engagement, I’m having to do a bit more work to get the students involved in their own experience.

Trials of a teacher…

How is your year going so far?

-K

blog, Uncategorized, Writing

It’s A New Semester

…And so far, things are going great. I could not sleep at all, so I am operating on less than 3 hours of sleep. I get to class and realize I have no dry-erase markers (ladies and gentlemen, the professor is unprepared for class!), so I run to the store to get some. Then, I get to class, and bring up my Canvas course page and — dun, dun, dun — it’s empty. I put all of the right content in the wrong class. I spent all week doing the wrong thing.

—sigh—

In any case, I have four classes I am teaching — two writing for engineers courses, one strategic communications (writing in advertising and public relations) course, and one traditional rhetoric, research, and writing course. I am excited about all of these course in their own way, but I am most excited about the strategic communications course because it is new. While I have done a bit of freelance copywriting (not much to write home about), it will be interesting to see what I can bring to this course and what I can learn from teaching it.

Onward and forward,

-K

Books, Writing

What is Your Theme for 2019?

I have a theme for the year, something that I will work on as the year progresses. I decided on “love” as a theme. This may seem hokey, but I spend a lot of time alone and largely invisible to most people; however, I think about relations and relationships quite a bit, including the relationship that I have with myself.

So, my exploration of love means finding ways to love life and work even when I feel completely over it all. Finding ways to love people is, of course, at the top of the list, but also finding a way to love change, uncertainty, and weakness.

I have decided to do this by increasing my reading, or rather, changing what I read on a regular basis. As an English professor who primarily works in Cultural Studies and Critical Theory, most of my reading is historical, philosophical, and theoretical in nature. I rarely have time for fiction. Yet, I have a bookcase full of fiction books, so I have decided to give them my full attention.

Fiction can teach us a lot about love. Of course, experience is the best teacher, but I am more interested in how we conceive of love. How do we understand it, talk about it, or think about it?

And from love, especially self-love, what makes a relationship? From there, what makes a community, a region, a society, and so on. Books can be very instructive here.

My first book of choice: Thomas Moore’s Utopia. I have not finished it yet, but so far I can say that the man was a master of the dependent clause. His sentences are long, really long. However, the book is really short, about 80 or so pages. I will do a write up on it later.

Another thing I would like to do, specifically with this blog, is include poetry. Since my theme is love, I thought it would be fun to go on a love journey through poetry. I will post daily poems that make me think of love or demonstrate love in some way.

If you have any recommendations, send them my way!

-K

blog, Writing

Word of the Day: What

You ever noticed that when dictionary-type sites do the word-of-the-day, it’s always a really interesting, uncommonly used word? Why not use common words, words that are a part of our everyday?

I was thinking of a word-of-the-day when I decided to read a few news articles to try and get some inspiration, and the only word that came to mind was, “what.” I kept saying it after each article: “what?”

Sometimes I said, “what the hell?”

Other times I  said, “what the [insert word here]?”

It’s such a useful word that allowed me to express my full range of emotions from confusion to incredulity, from cynicism to excitement.

It is a pronoun (What we need is love.), a determiner (He lost what little common sense he had left.), or an adverb (What does it matter if you had one pumpkin muffin already; eat another!).

Further, when successfully deployed, it is one of the few words that lends itself to non-verbal communication; facial expressions can do an excellent job at conveying the “what-ness” of a situation.

For example, you remember that time your co-worker said something so stupid that words simply failed? Or what about that time a loved one said they had a surprise for you, and you were left speechless? Both scenarios can be addressed with a well-placed verbal or non-verbal “what.”

In either case, let’s give it up for the common words too. I mean, really, every day can’t be an ‘anfractuous’ kind of day. Sometimes you just need to say, “what,” and let it go.

-K