There have been widespread changes to the way we consume content over the past thirty years, which proliferated during the COVID-19 pandemic. It’s clear that online media is key to connecting us to each other and to businesses. But with that rise in online content comes a demand for copy editors who can ensure it is accurate and presented in the best way possible.
Copy editing training courses can open the gates to more opportunities or simply help bloggers and freelancers sharpen their skills. You’ll need a good grasp of English to begin with and acute attention to detail. So if you spot typos a mile off, rage at incorrect apostrophes and don’t quite know your em dashes from your en, but you're keen to learn, then taking copy editing courses online could kick-start your career.
But first, what is copy editing?
As the advent of digital has changed the way we publish text offline and online, copy editing has become a less defined term in many respects. The precise nature of the role often depends on the type of content being edited and the medium and purpose the content is produced for. However, there are some general tenets of what copy editing involves.
When a piece of copy has been created for a magazine, newspaper or blog, it usually falls to the copy editor to make sure there are no errors in spelling, grammar or punctuation. But a copy editor will usually also check and correct things like word choice, sense, consistency, accuracy and some technical or formatting aspects such as headings and referencing.
In short, it is a copy editor’s job to ensure the content about to be published has been scrutinised and also stays on the right side of the law.
Copy editors can be found working freelance or in numerous sectors, organisations and businesses, from book publishers, magazines and newspaper houses, to copywriting and PR agencies, in-house at brands, charities, law firms and more.
Many writers also work as editors, and vice versa. Learning how to professionally edit work isn’t just a career move, it can also help you become a better writer.
Copy editing vs proofreading
The terms copy editing and proofreading are sometimes conflated but have two very different roles.
Copy editing usually requires more extensive editing for the issues listed above prior to a piece of text being considered for final draft stage. In traditional book publishing, NY Book Editors describes a copy editor as the person who:
“focuses on both the small details and the big picture. He or she must be meticulous and highly technical, while still aware of the overarching themes at work within [a] manuscript.”
This overview can apply to a copy editor in any field.
A proofreader is usually employed after these edits are made to highlight and correct any existing spelling and grammar errors.
If you take either a copy editing or proofreading course in the UK, you will usually be expected to work with the BSI (British Standards Institution) proofreading marks that both professions employ.
Although, in the digital age, these are less relevant to many online-only roles, learning them will give you the best introduction to the job and the kind of discipline and attention to detail required. If you don’t already have a good grasp of these, it might be best to consider starting with an introduction to proofreading course as many copy editing courses will expect you to have some knowledge of proofreading marks.
As such, when it comes to deciding between copy editing vs proofreading courses, many newcomers to the field begin by taking a proofreading course as this prepares them for spotting basic technical errors and inconsistencies.
Progressing to a copy editing course then allows you to develop as an editor to be able to focus on a wider range of issues such as themes, flow, insight, sense and working to a brief. Nevertheless, many of today’s copy editing training courses combine elements of both, as you will see in our list.
5 online copy editing training courses for 2020
Perhaps you already have experience in proofreading or writing content and are looking to amplify your editing skills. We’ve already discussed some of the best copy editing courses and the various types that exist previously on the Copify blog. If you’re looking for a flexible course you can do from home, then here are 5 online copy editing training courses for 2020:
The ideal course for beginners or self-publishers, you’ll learn how to proofread and edit documents both in hard copy and online for clarity at different stages of the editing process, be taught the BSI proofreading symbols and how to use them to improve written copy. You’ll receive marked assignments, support on starting a freelance business and get a certificate on completion.
The CIEP is a professional organisation for proofreaders and editors in the UK. They offer a range of courses for all stages of professional development, from Copyediting 1: Introduction, which teaches you how to apply BSI marks and use Track Changes in Word; through to Copyediting 2: Headway which looks at editing to a brief; and Copyediting 3: Progress which delves into editing with author voice in mind, raising queries and editing technical content. When you’ve completed these stages you’ll be able to undertake the mentoring part of the programme.
The CIEP also offer courses on editing digital content, proofreading and fiction editing so you can tailor your learning to your career aims.
This copy editing course from the PTC is ideal as the next step from the Essential Proofreading: Editorial Skills One course. You’ll need to know the BSI symbols used and will learn the fundamentals of copy editing both fiction and non fiction, both on and offline. As well as written text, you’ll learn how to apply edits for technical details such as tables, figures and endmatter and provide feedback.
See all the PTC's Editorial Courses here.
This CIM course is aimed at a range of levels but is particularly useful for teams looking to enhance their editing skillset. It covers key areas to help you create engaging, powerful and persuasive content in line with your brand voice.
The course is delivered online, through a one-day workshop, and participants will learn to spot and fix common grammatical and punctuation errors, put together a style guide for their brand, learn the difference between editing on paper and digitally, how to improve your writing style, eradicate common phrases and the difference between UK and US English. Delivered by expert trainers, using practical training methods and introducing a good overview of different aspects, it's a crash course in copy editing.
The first of its kind, Chapterhouse has been providing proofreading courses since 1991 and is dedicated to taking you through the full process of grammar, punctuation and usage, to editing on and off-screen and for the non-publishing environment, and getting work. You’ll have access to full tutor support and complete four assignments and smaller exercises.
Taking it further
Like starting out on any new path, becoming a freelance or in-house paid copy editor will require you to know what your next step is after your training is complete.
Here are some thoughts:
Join a professional editing organisation
For an annual fee this can help you become accredited and find job opportunities. It can also provide you with advice and even in some cases legal support. The most common are:
UK – Chartered Institute of Editing and Proofreading
US – ACES: The Society for Editing
Canada – The Editors’ Association of Canada
Look for work
Start small with online jobs boards or solicit local businesses to see if they need help editing their web pages, blog posts, adverts or reports to rid them of errors that can undermine their effectiveness. Many websites and local and online publications also routinely need editors, even if it’s not full-time, so search for ‘editors/proofreaders wanted’ either remotely or targeted to your local area.
Build your presence
As with any new career choice, it’s important to make sure you refine and promote your skills. Create a website or blog where you can market your services or discuss the current trends in linguistics and language, highlight clients you have worked with, showcase your latest training and provide a way for prospective clients to get in touch.
Many people think they can edit copy simply because they spot the occasional typo. But even if you have a great grasp of English, a copy editing training course can open up a new world of potential pitfalls and areas to be aware of, not to mention the knock-on effects of making edits to a writer’s work. Taking the time to sharpen your skills won’t just offer you new opportunities and enhance your CV, it will also highlight your dedication to the craft and improve your written work.
✏️If you're looking to give your content the professional touch, why not reach out to bus at Copify about our copywriting services?
Main image: Bram Naus