Why not a master’s in editing?
Many higher education courses — for example, in publishing, creative writing, and journalism — courses provide some coverage of editing. Few, however, give it major emphasis – let alone make it the main focus. Yet the case for providing courses dedicated to editing is compelling.
Editing is, after all, is an activity with a long pedigree within academia, at least in the form of scholarly textual editing and journal editing. And editing is a complex, intellectually rich, activity, worthy of genuine study.
Moreover, courses on editing would harmonise with universities’ growing concern to demonstrate that their courses promote employability. Many people work as designated editors — and editing is also a valuable skill to possess in more general roles that involve communication or the handling of information.
In the publishing industry, editing takes many forms – for example, commissioning, volume or journal editing, development editing, and copy-editing. There is a reasonably close kinship to the editing skills employed by a magazine, newspaper, or website editor — and at least some comparison to those skills in radio, television, film, and music.
The skills that such various forms of editing have in common are amongst those often identified as most desirable in the age of digital information. They include abstracting, collating, criticising, curating, digesting, evaluating, indexing, and remixing.
A particular attraction for any university that wanted to establish a course is the existence of a number of professional bodies. Examples include the Society for Editors and Proofreaders and Association of Learned and Professional Society Publishers. I’d urge any such university to seek to work in genuine partnership with professional organisations such as these: there would surely be mutual advantage to be gained from exploring such areas as accreditation and credits towards professional qualifications.
To support courses of the kind envisaged here, many high quality resources are already available. They include:
- Scott Norton, Developmental editing (U. of Chicago Press);
- Janet Mackenzie, The Editor’s companion (Cambridge U. Press);
- Yehuda Baruch et al., Opening the black box of editorship (Palgrave).
In addition, many editors provide a regular supply of high quality content online via social media. They include Averill Buchanan (@AverillB), Louise Harnby (@LouiseHarnby), Katie Van Heest (@TweedEditing), Kristine Hunt (@CCCopyEditor), Agata Mrva-Montoya (@agatamontoya), and Katharine O’Moore-Klopf (@KOKEdit). There’s certainly no shortage of resources.
Overall, courses in editing, by combining high-order intellectual content with vocational possibilities, would be likely to prove popular. They therefore offer an opportunity for host institutions both to generate income and to contribute to their students’ employability. What’s not to like?
And, yes, I’m ready to talk! 🙂