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Course Review – CIEP Copyediting 3: Progress

Updated: Oct 28, 2022

Phew! I made it to the end of the CIEP’s copyediting suite.

This consists of three courses, the first of which is an introduction.

The second is an assessed course with tutor feedback on three assignments.

The final course – Copyediting 3 (Progress) – includes some more challenging kinds of material. In today’s blog post I’ll discuss what the course covers and what doing the course felt like.

First things first:

Who is the Progress course for?

The progress course has been designed for people who have some professional experience in copyediting. It would suit people in their first few years of work, as well as more experienced editors who want targeted feedback on their work (the learning never stops, right?). The CIEP markets the course also at editors who have taken a career break and want to get up to speed with industry standards etc.

I believe it’s a step up from the Copyediting 2: Headway course for several reasons:

  1. The course includes complex kinds of materials, such as tables, references, and glossaries

  2. The course covers complex kinds of documents, such as academic chapters and reports

  3. There is an assessed exercise in copyediting on paper

  4. You need to know how to use the copyediting and proofreading symbols used in UK publishing (which are different to those used in the USA)

The course starts with two assessed tasks to gauge whether you are roughly at the required level. The first is a public information leaflet that you have to copyedit on paper, and the second is a conservation report with a table included, which you copyedit in MS Word using MS Word Styles rather than applying coding.

The first two exercises

I found the first exercise deceptively difficult, as I’d never copyedited on paper before. The symbols are very similar to those used for proofreading on paper, with which I was familiar, though. Without the proofreading training, I would have found the first exercise pretty overwhelming!

Full disclosure: even with the proofreading training, I *just* failed the first assignment. However, this was due to not knowing a rule and style preference or two; copyediting on paper was not the issue.

Submitting the assignment was really nerve-racking! However, the tutor feedback taught me some really useful details about New Hart’s Rules. Editors are generally good at paying attention to detail. Yet, having a broader picture of the text and focusing on how it sits together as a coherent whole – written in a specific context for a particular audience – is a skill I started to focus more on here.

The second exercise included a table and graph and was preceded by study materials on these topics. I reckon some people feel intimidated by tables and anything that looks mathematical. Should a copyeditor ever need to use a calculator?

I have a science and social science background though, so I felt at home with doing this kind of checking and scored a very high mark. Despite this, submitting the second task felt scarier as I hadn’t passed the first.

The Progress course materials

The next three modules looked at specific issues rather than more ‘bigger picture’ skills: references, prelims, and end matter.

I won’t lie, some of this material was boring. But it was firmly worth reading. Each exercise taught me something new and the model answers helped me finally get to grips with my biggest weakness on the earlier courses – intervening too much.

The final assignment

At the end of the course, you can choose between a medical editing assignment or a humanities assignment. If you really like tables and graphs etc. then the medical editing would be a good choice. I picked the humanities assignment as this is what I edit most of the time. What was scary here was that your final assignment pretty much determines your overall grade on the course, and if you pass, you can be considered for the CIEP mentoring programme. I scored a solid 85% which put me squarely between ‘good’ and ‘very good’ – a place I was very happy to be in as a copyeditor in my third year of running an editorial business.

As you can see, the course ranged from scary with a bit of overwhelm in places, to ‘aha’ moments and occasional boredom. I guess how you feel when you do the course will depend on your background knowledge, personality, and how serious you are about the training.

What did the shift up a gear look like?

What I would say is that the exercise on paper and presumed familiarity with New Hart’s Rules makes the Progress course a bit more UK exclusive than the Headway course. If I were based in the USA for example, I probably wouldn’t want to learn the UK copyediting/proofreading symbols for one course exercise. Yes, I could invest the time, but the potential gains are likely lower than for UK-based editors.

Back on the Headway course, I was still learning the NHR style guide through the feedback I received on each exercise. And at that point I hadn’t figured out the level of nuance that should be left alone, as I work mostly with multilingual authors whose texts normally require much heavier interventions. My tutor’s comments and replies were incredibly helpful, and she said that getting the level of intervention right is one of the hardest things to teach.

Tips on how to succeed on the Progress course

My advice is to have a go at the assessed exercises on paper first, even if the brief is to copyedit in MS Word. I find I’m better at spotting errors on paper and the process of going through the text again and transposing your edits from paper into MS Word adds an extra round of checking. It’s also worth having a first attempt and then taking a break for at least a few days before finishing the assignment.

What I did differently for the last two assignments was that I would book a regular work slot to finalise them, rather than fitting them around paid work in evenings or at weekends. This meant I took them just as seriously as paid work.

After the course?

The CIEP mentoring programme is a logical next step, but I have decided I would rather focus on developing niche skills before doing some more general training in a few years’ time as a refresher.

The CIEP copyediting suite* is designed to prepare you for copyediting a wide variety of non-fiction texts. I would call what the course teaches ‘light’ copyediting. And the heavier interventions I often make with multilingual authors or indie fiction authors are closer to ‘line-editing’ or ‘stylistic’ editing. Here, interventions become more subjective and the number of possible editorial solutions for a text increases dramatically.

Personally, I find line-editing more interesting and involved. I enjoy it more than light copyediting, for both fiction and academic texts. This is why I’ll now focus on my fiction and academic line-editing skills. The EFA offer courses on this and the CIEP offers an Introduction to Fiction Editing course.

*in my first draft I wrote ‘the copyediting suit’ and I find this pretty funny

Photo by Glenn Carstens-Peters on Unsplash


Andrew Hodges, PhD is a copyeditor and developmental editor who specializes in editing fiction for science fiction and fantasy writers. His expertise is in worldbuilding and cultural considerations when crafting setting in stories.

He is an advanced professional member of the CIEP, a member of EFA, and an ALLi partner member.

You can contact him here, or feel free to leave a comment below!

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