I recently completed the University of California in San Diego’s copyediting certificate program. In online editing and writing communities, the program is touted as one of the best copyediting courses out there, and UCSD itself promises introduction to tools, techniques, and topics that ensure a successful career.
With expectations thus embellished, I enrolled about a year ago.
The program is available through UCSD’s web-based extension platform. It consists of four ten-week courses, two of which you can follow simultaneously. This means that you can complete the entire program in either nine months or one year (I did it in one year). Each course demands a time commitment of between six to ten hours a week. On top of that, the program is not cheap at $425 per course, plus books.
So, was it worthwhile?
- I learned a lot, particularly from the first course, Grammar Lab. While I felt I had a pretty good grasp of grammar before the course, it definitely filled in some gaps, and moreover it has enabled me to explain the grammar conventions behind my edits to others. Subsequent courses offered plenty of opportunity for practice and introduced some guiding principles that have made me a more confident editor.
- I was introduced to resources, reference works, and communities that I was not previously familiar with and that I am certain will be helpful in the future. Amy Einsohn’s The Copyeditor’s Handbook is an invaluable reference, the CE-L listserv is brimming with advice and opportunities, and mnemonics like the one below made me laugh.
- I found the academic level of this program to be very high. Clearly, instructors are knowledgeable, and quizzes and assignments require that you get through your readings and pay attention.
- Completing the program does indeed take time. Especially the last course, Copyediting III, during which you continuously work to complete a heavy edit of a thirty-page document for the final exam, required many hours of work.
- Being based outside the US, I had a hard time obtaining the required books. An unrelated trip to New York and an incredibly accommodating bookstore in Taipei were my saviors.
- Reading materials, quizzes, and assignments were clearly recycled from previous years, which led to a suboptimal experience. For example, we were at one point asked to read a document on “the copyediting practices of the publishing industry today,” which turned out to be almost twenty years old. It was, of course, hopelessly outdated.
- Despite promises of “ensuring a successful career,” the program very rarely touched on the career or business aspects of copyediting, which I think is a missed opportunity. However, UCSD does supposedly offer a course on editing as a business, but I haven’t seen it scheduled yet.
- Taking a class online is obviously not the same as walking into a classroom—you don’t experience the same camaraderie or sense of community. Yet, I’ve followed other online courses during which this kind of intimacy was better approximated, through videoconferences, for example.
In my opinion, UCSD’s copyediting certificate program does provide a very thorough, very instructive introduction to the copyediting discipline. After completing the program, I feel much better positioned to help clients with their editing needs. In addition, the program brought me closer to a field that I find both professionally and personally satisfying. I’d recommend this program to peers looking to build or improve their editing skills.