Most of my experience in editing and publishing has been on the writing side of the field. It hasn’t required me to embark on the day-in, day-out journey of multiple passes through a manuscript. I’ve edited for New Letters Magazine and for the 10th edition of Business and Administrative Communication, but I’ve been spared the process of editing at a heavy level, using multiple passes. While I focus in on details fairly well—perhaps to a fault, like most writers and editors—I find light- to medium-level copyediting challenging enough.
I’m noticing this fault in the students now. As excited as they were in week one to set their pens to a manuscript riddled with errors, that excitement has waned a bit. When asked which editing exercise activity they would like to do this morning, everyone seemed hesitant to respond. They can hardly be blamed for this, I think, because it is exhausting work. A Google search for “editing fatigue” and “editor’s fatigue” yields some chatter on the online front, but, surprisingly, all the chatter is just that, brief spats of frustration and cries for validation. I found no solutions, really, other than one suggestion from a business journalism editor at Arizona State University who claims “there is no hope,” aside from hiring smart copyeditors, followed by a brief lamentation on the state of hiring in the copyediting field.
I have a hard time accepting that there is no solution to a problem.
In talking with a student this week, we strategized some ways to make our passes through a manuscript more purposeful, how to order them, and how to keep focused through each pass. Such an approach is far from a cure-all solution, I know, but I think that strategizing and the mindfulness component, i.e., being aware of fatigue and how to edit to prevent it, is useful.
I’ll continue to think about this issue; however, I’m more interested in how to keep the teaching of editing interesting. If the teaching is interesting, perhaps the learned, independent process that follows will also be more interesting, right?
At present, I’m thinking through how to revise a set of past slides to be used in an upcoming week. I thought a simple Prezi might spice things up, but it’s hard to study from a Prezi or convince students to download a Prezi in slide form. I returned to the idea of PowerPoint, the presentation software our slides are in, and the possibility of animating those slides for a more dynamic, almost movie-like effect. Although envisioning and designing a good animation is not overwhelmingly difficult or time-consuming, student retrieval of information from those slides would be. That’s not to say that we want all our students to have all the information in slide form. Certainly, the existing slides give a helpful outline and key definitions for study outside of class. But what’s retrieved after class should be just enough information to recall the lecture, and it shouldn’t be jumbled with overlapping animations arranged for effect, not reading.
I returned to the Presentation Zen trifecta of “Simple, Beautiful, Fun,” but I’m challenged to think of how I can make slides more simple when they’re already as simple as they can be. Perhaps the other tenets of beautiful and fun can be embraced more. (Dr. Leverenz does have a good deal of editing jokes in the form of cartoons.) Beautiful I might have to think on though. I’m also going to continue to think about why this presentation approach that is so effective in teaching doesn’t serve outside study quite as well.
Making presentation materials of teaching more engaging is just one of several other approaches to making learning about editing more interesting. I’m going to continue to grapple with this issue, and my hope is that next week I might connect to other editing teachers in our field to query their teaching methods and what resources they’ve liked best.