ENG-W 365: Technical Editing

(Click here for the Fall 2019 Course Syllabus.)

Technical Editing is perhaps the most immediately practical or “nuts & bolts” course I teach on a regular basis at IU Kokomo. Week by week, students learn how to edit technical documents, from proofreading for errors at the surface level to ensuring that documents contain appropriate content, organization, and visuals for their various readers. Students also learn long-forgotten (or never-learned) principles of correct English grammar, syntax, and punctuation; how to use traditional editing and proofreading marks; the editing functions within word processing software such as Microsoft Word; and basic principles of layout and design. Finally, this course introduces undergraduates to the full spectrum of workplace responsibilities today’s editors and editorial teams face, including large-scale project design and management, ethical and legal issues, and the impact of the global marketplace on editing practices, theories, and methodologies.

I have taught and revised this course five times since I started at IU Kokomo in 2012—more than any other course I have taught—and each time I have approached the course with much more confidence. Several students have noted this in my more casual or “laid back” approach to the course. One student, for example, wrote that I made “technical editing fun and rewarding,” while another wrote that the course “had a very casual feel to it.” Another student observed, “I liked that Dr. Cook was very energetic every class. He also made something like editing, which can be intimidating, fun and easy to learn.” Other students opted to write about how much they learned and, perhaps most importantly, how valuable the full range of editing skills will be for them in their other coursework and in their future careers. Indeed, several of my former students have used the skills they learned in this course to launch their own careers in technical editing—some work as freelancers and full-time writers/editors in various organizations, some are enrolled in graduate programs, and one even worked as an Assistant Editor at a well-known academic journal.

One significant revision that I have continued for the last few semesters was that I scaled-back the resume editing assignment; I now opt not to work with Career Services to give students “real-world” resumes. This had been a valuable experience in 2012 and 2013, but the logistics were incredibly time-consuming, and I felt that whatever benefits or gains the students received from knowing that they were working with “real” job seekers was really undermined by the amount of time it took all of us to coordinate our efforts, ensure anonymity, and so forth. So, this time around, as in 2013, students simply edited either their own resumes or those of friends, family, and classmates. This continuing practice proved successful again this year, too.

Because this course by necessity has a somewhat general focus on acquainting students with the basics of technical editing procedures (copyediting, comprehensive editing, grammar/syntax, etc.), I have come to the realization that I need to develop and offer a new series of editing courses, or perhaps a frequent special topics course that could tackle, say, digital media and the cutting edge of the editing profession. Another course might focus exclusively on copyediting and grammar, syntax, and mechanics. I believe the demand exists for these kinds of courses, which could easily function as both core and adjunct courses to the minor in Writing, Editing, and Media. Going forward, I am also looking for ways to partner with the Media and Marketing department on IU Kokomo’s campus to offer students even more real-world editing situations; one of my former editing students now works as a staff writer for this department, and she credits her time in my class with giving her the basic skills and confidence to pursue this career goal.

 Learning Outcomes

  • Perform comprehensive editing, copyediting, and proofreading;
  • Utilize, understand, and confidently support editorial decisions regarding grammar, syntax, punctuation, style, and organization;
  • Use and understand editorial and proofreading terminology;
  • Understand the profession of editing, including career possibilities and professional, ethical, and legal responsibilities;
  • Revise for tone, clarity, conciseness, and continuity;
  • Use traditional copyediting and proofreading marks;
  • Become familiar with project management techniques, responsibilities, and challenges;
  • Use technologies related to editing (primarily MS Word 2016);
  • Analyze diverse communication/rhetorical situations.

 Course Evaluation Summaries (Quantitative)

I have now taught ENG-W 365 five times, which has offered me many opportunities for revision and pedagogical experimentation. Our Likert scale for student evaluations changed in 2013-14 from a five-point scale in which “1.00” was the highest possible score per category (i.e., 1.00 = Strongly Agree) to a five-point scale in which “5.00” became the highest possible score per category (i.e., 5.00 = Strongly Agree) starting in Fall 2014.

ENG-W 365: Technical Editing Fall 2012 (15522) Fall 2013


Fall 2014 (22733) Fall 2015 (29501) Fall 2016 (32944)
1.)   The course was well organized. 1.79 1.25 4.50 4.33 4.36
2.)   The course objectives were clear to the students. 1.74 1.25 4.44 4.33 4.50
3.)   There was general agreement between announced course objectives and what was actually taught. 1.89 1.13 4.31 4.22 4.00
4.)   The instructor explained the subject clearly. 1.74 1.25 4.50 4.67 4.00
5.)   The instructor summarized the major points in lecture or discussion. 1.63 1.25 4.63 4.78 4.57
6.)   The instructor made effective use of class time. 1.79 1.13 4.38 4.33 4.07
7.)     The instructor was well prepared for class meetings. 1.53 1.13 4.38 4.56 4.50
8.)     The amount of reading was appropriate for the course. 1.84 1.25 4.38 4.56 4.57
9.)     In relation to other courses of equal credits and level, the workload in this course was appropriate. 2.00 1.25 4.38 4.56 4.36
10.)  The amount of material covered in the course was reasonable. 1.95 1.38 4.44 4.33 3.86
11.)  The course required more time and effort than others at this level. 2.53 2.25 4.44 4.33 3.86
12.)  The grading system for the course was clearly explained. 1.89 1.38 4.31 4.33 3.64
13.)  Grades were assigned fairly and impartially. 1.95 1.00 4.44 4.11 4.29
14.)  The instructor collected enough evidence for valid grading. 1.89 1.38 4.63 4.22 4.43
15.)  The exams accurately assessed what I have learned in this class. 2.21 1.38 4.69 4.22 4.43
16.)  The instructor showed a genuine interest in students 1.58 1.13 4.63 4.22 4.43
17.)  The instructor was readily available for consultation with students. 1.53 1.13 4.69 4.56 4.29
18.)  The instructor stimulated my thinking. 1.53 1.13 4.50 4.44 4.29
19.)  The instructor stimulated class discussion. 1.53 1.13 4.25 4.56 4.29
20.)  The instructor promoted an atmosphere conducive to learning. 1.47 1.13 4.50 4.67 4.00
21.)  Compared to other instructors I have had, this instructor is outstanding. 2.16 1.38 4.37 4.78 4.00
22.) Compared to other courses I’ve taken, I learned more in this course. 2.05 1.25 4.13 4.67 3.54

Course Evaluation Summaries (Qualitative)

Fall 2016

“I had hoped to spend more time practicing proofreading.”

“The units on grammar were very informative.”

“[What I liked most about the course was the instructor’s] enthusiasm for material.”

“[What I liked least about the course were] chapter outlines.”

“[The most valuable thing I learned in this course was] proper editing techniques, info concerning resumes, and other actually useful info.”

“Fast-paced, well thought out course.”

“Didn’t get through everything according to schedule.”

“Cool guy.”

“[What I liked least about the course was] all the outlines but it helps.”

“[The most valuable thing I learned in this course was] how to edit a document.”

“I liked how organized the class was and how quickly Dr. Cook responded to emails.”

“I didn’t like how we didn’t spend enough time applying what we were learning in class.”

“[The most valuable thing I learned in this course was] how to make outlines and edit papers.”

“Initially I liked the concept of the course, and the skills I thought I’d gain.”

“The instructor was condescending and disrespectful to students.”

“[The most valuable thing I learned in this course was] how to push through an awful class.”

“Cook is personable.”

“[What I liked least about the course was that it was] 2.5 hours.”

“[The most valuable thing I learned in this course was] FANBOYS and many elements of comprehensive and copyediting.”

“This course is great for refreshing those old English/grammar skills and rules. The work was usually real world applicable.”

“On occasion it was hard to figure out what was due and when.”

“This course was imperative to my current work as well as the work I hope to do. Dr. Cook works hard to ensure his students not only understand the material, but also where and why it can be used.”

“I found the worksheets on the subject material to be very helpful.”

“I did not care for the coursework being typed up to upload to the assignments. The subject material is heavy, and I would prefer assignments due in class.”

“The most valuable thing I learned was that people need people who have editing skills There are endless career choices!”

“I enjoyed how involved he got us in class, and how he showed us how these skills will help us in the future.”

“I didn’t care for the workload for how much it clashed with everything in other courses, but that’s just my time management.”

“I learned how to edit documents according to certain standards a skill I need to hone.”

“I liked the outlines—great practice.”

“[What I liked least about the course was] how assignments were due on Sunday nights—instead of before class on Monday. In the “real world” this is something I should get used to!”

[The most valuable thing I learned in this course was] how to outline.”

“What I liked most was things being brought to my attention about grammar usage.”

“I did not like being degraded every class session. I will participate in class discussions, but not to where he can embarrass me.”

“I learned what I did not want in a professor. He’s knowledgeable in his material, delivery and the way he talks/treats students needs work.”

“He encouraged everyone to participate in every class meeting. Made sure everyone understood.”

“Some of the things on the exam are things we didn’t go over in class and/or didn’t go over well enough for it to be on an exam.”

“[The most valuable thing I learned in this course was] how to edit and the different ways of editing.”

“Learning the technical aspects of editing was difficult because my major never focused on grammar until now, so I liked learning about that part the least.”

“I believe this course helped me to learn how to edit efficiently, so that’s the most valuable thing I’ve gained in this course.”

Fall 2015

“[What I liked most about the course was] the group project.”

“I liked taking the midterm exam the least.”

“I loved learning about consistent [sic], more consistent ways to edit an official document.”

“The class was considerably less painful than I thought it would be. My only major problem was the difficulty of the editing test. I don’t think a test should be so hard that you have to be a grad student to get an A. That being said, Dr. Cook did a wonderful job making sure everyone was at least on the same page throughout the whole semester. I would not hesitate to take other classes with him in the future.”

“I liked the style of this course, it was a lot of hands on learning and discussion which was very beneficial. Dr. Cook is also really easy to talk to if you don’t understand something.”

“Sometime we got behind in our work and we had to rush through things.”

“[The most valuable thing I learned I this course was to] be specific, and clear about what you’re trying to say.”

“There was a lot of homework.”

“[The most valuable thing I learned in this course was] how to edit and prepare proper documents.”

“I really enjoyed learning how to edit. Dr. Cook has a lot of knowledge of the topic.”

“I learned what it took to be an outstanding editor.”

“Every day was an academic adventure.”

“He’s a bit neurotic with grading.”

“[The most valuable thing I learned in this course was] DETAILS.”

“The most valuable thing I learned was not to over-edit things, which will help out when I get a book editing job.”

“I loved the way the class was conducted and the material.”

“I think the final project could have been less simplistic.”

“I learned that I want to be an editor. I had kind of known that already, but this class has solidified my decision.”

Fall 2014

“[What I liked most about the course was] the subject.”

“[What I liked least about the course was] the reading.”

“[The most valuable thing I learned in this course was] it confirmed my choice of career in editing.”

“He always made something into a learning experience.”

“[The most valuable thing I learned in this course was] how to copyedit, how to proofread, how to format documents!”

“I liked the ‘cool down’ day because they helped me stay on track and manage the assignments.”

“[What I liked least about the course was] the editing exam [frowny face].”

“The most valuable thing I learned in this class was how to comprehensive edit.”

“[What I liked most about this course was the] material covered.”

“[The most valuable thing I learned in this course was] better writing skills.”

“[What I liked most about this course was that] it had a very casual feel to it.”

“He should have not given an option between quizes [sic] and chapter review. Chapter review would have been more helpful for this kind of course.”

“[The most valuable thing I learned in this course was that] circle bullet points are unprofessional.”

“[What I liked most about this instructor was that he was] helpful in learning.”

“[What I liked least about the course was the] midterm difficulty.”

“[The most valuable thing I learned in this course was] grammar skills.”

“I enjoyed the course readings in the early portion of the semester about editors, also I liked the online quizes [sic] over chapter outlines.”

“Not too fond on all the grammar, but very glad that I took this class for my future writings.”

“The most valuable skills I can take from this course are the skills that will make me a better overall writer.”

“He made technical editing fun and interesting.”

“No complaints.”

“[The most valuable things I learned in this course were] how to edit documents, a refresher on grammar and punctuation, and the responsibilities of an editor.”

“He was genuinely interested in the subject matter, and could clearly articulate subject to students. The assignments were challenging, but not difficult and I liked that most.”

“The exam was designed specifically to be difficult and I don’t think the class was ready for that.”

“[The most valuable thing I learned in this course was] how to professionally edit myself, particularly resumes.”

“I liked learning the process of how editors may communicate with clients and the editing process.”

“Nothing to really complain about.”

“[The most valuable things I learned in this course were] editing and grammar.”

“The course and the instructor helped me learn about concepts that are applicable in real life.”

“I learned how to properly proofread a paper, how to check for grammatical errors and how to properly mark up the paper to indicate the errors.”

“Learned a lot about how to use proper grammar.”

“It went very fast from topic to topic.”

“[The most valuable thing I learned in this course was] the proper way to use the English language.”

“Class atmosphere was laid back.”

“There were certain homework assignments that were left ungraded for a while.”

“[This course] increased my awareness in copyediting my own work.”

“This course refreshed a lot of what I knew about grammar, and taught other rules I did not know about previously.”

“For me, it wasn’t nearly as challenging as I thought; however, I’ve typically been known for my grammar skills.”

“[The most valuable thing I learned in this course was] whether or not I knew, or thought I knew was correct.”

“I liked that Dr. Cook was very energetic every class. He also made something like editing, which can be intimidating, fun and easy to learn.”

“[The most valuable thing I learned in this course was] how to think like an editor when writing and reading.”

“The class was interesting and I liked the professor.”

“I liked everything about the class.”

“I learned how to copyediting appropriately.”

Fall 2013 (includes MALS students)

“Dr. Cook was always ready to meet with a student and helped me work through a few issues. Always was able to get the class talking and encouraged alternative answers.”

“Fantastic professor, one of my favorites that I’ve had.”

“The class discussion was stimulating, interesting, and useful. I like how much time the professor devoted to students contributing and in class discussion. The instructor definitly [sic] cares about the students and was willing to devote extra time outside of class for making sure students understood the material and could do their best.”

“I liked the instructor’s commitment to students. However I was troubled by the difficulty of the test. Yet I did learn a lot more in this class than in other English/writing classes.”

“It is inane and absurd to have a test that is so difficult no one has gotten an A on it. It should be graded on a curve if it’s going to be that difficult.”

“This is one of the most useful and helpful courses I have taken. The one exam was just too difficult.”

“Very fair grading.”

“Dr. Cook gives the students personal attention and gets to know his students.”

“Very good course. Not the most interesting material, but Dr. Cook made it extraordinary.”

“Great, great atmosphere for learning. Real laid back and not tense.”

“Instructor is awesome. Keeps things chill and uses humor to relate to students. Awesome.”

“The exam was only on grammar. For such a large hunk of grade, we spent very little time on the mechanics.”

“Dr. Cook has been patient, helpful, and has gone out of his way to assist student learning.”

“I believe I learned much more than my test reflected.”

“Dr. Cook is an excellent teacher and very encouraging to his class. He went out of his way to [help] students to succeed.”

“I would take any class this professor taught. He is excellent.”

“Maybe use peer evaluation for group project. Five people in a group didn’t really work (at all).”

“Always available for meeting.”

“Thank you for teaching me, Dr. Cook.”

“The reading was alright, but it felt out of order.”

“Used every minute of class.”

“Maybe remove one chapter or two.”

Fall 2012

“What was actually taught vs. the planned objectives greatly differed, and not in a good way. Class time was wasted on irrelevant material and nothing was clearly explained.”

“As far as grading goes, there was not enough evidence based on not doing most of the assignments because we never got to them and the mid-term did not assess what we ‘learned,’ because I learned nothing.”

“I feel as though as the class progressed—the professor’s organization of class time and activities got better.”

“This class took up all of my studying time!”

“Great instructor! I would definitely take another class with him.”

“Loved the hands-on experience.”

“Workload was manageable yet effective; ideal balance made assignments and projects count.”

“Truly seemed to enjoy helping students learn and succeed (and was quite effective at doing so); demystified grammatical rules that have been plaguing me since grade school.”

“Absolutely fantastic instructor and course: would love to take another course from this instructor; highly recommend both!”

“Organization could use some work.”

“Group assignment was a killer!”

“I really hated the group project. Suggest smaller groups. It’s too hard to coordinate that many people.”

“Great instructor. I’m sure he will be more organized in the future.”

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