Guest post by Hannah McCollum Chakraborti: Professional Training

When Joanie of Eagle Eye Editing asked me about the editing classes I was taking, she was curious (or perhaps skeptical) about the value of formal training. After all, Joanie didn’t have any formal credentials when she started out, but today she is well-known as an excellent editor. Are classes and workshops really necessary for an editor to gain the knowledge and skills she needs to produce quality editing? At least one successful editor who is wiser than I am would say, “absolutely not!” As someone new to the field, I would agree with her and add, “but it’s absolutely helpful.”

This year I earned my certificate in editing from the University of Washington. It was the right decision for me to pay up and go back to school for a few reasons. First, I wanted the confidence boost. In the real world you don’t get a letter grade for your work, so how do you know if you missed something? It felt nice to receive test scores, positive feedback, and a fancy piece of paper in the mail. Today, as I’m searching for copyediting and proofreading jobs, my certificate is the first thing I list on my resume and what I talk about in cover letters.

Second, I knew I didn’t have a good grasp of English grammar, but I didn’t know how to start learning on my own. The UW program began with a crash course in grammar. I didn’t become an expert in a few short weeks, but at least now alarm bells go off in my head whenever I see a “which” that might be a “that” or a collective noun with a possessive pronoun. I know how to proceed from here: with caution. And chapter 5 of The Chicago Manual of Style.

Third, not everyone can be a self-taught expert. That’s why colleges and universities exist! It takes self-discipline to teach yourself any skill, even if you have the knack for it and the information is available in books and online. I needed the external motivators of not disappointing my professors, keeping up with my classmates, and getting the most out of my money. I also hoped the curriculum would provide a roadmap for future learning: what books to read and skills to tackle next.

I’m proud of my hard work and the certificate I earned. I’m at the beginning of my professional journey, so there’s more learning to be done, but if I’ve learned anything about editors it’s that they’re always learning—whether or not they pay tuition.

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