Coming into the Professional Writing Minor’s Editing Track, I was sure that this was going to be a breeze. I’ve been the top editor at The Bottom Line, one of UCSB’s student-run newspapers, for the last two years, in the process shepherding the paper to its first-ever national award. I knew how to edit. I knew I was good at it.
That is, until I joined the Writing Program as a minor.
Some of my first assignments for Writing 151A and B betray my confidence. While I might have been good at picking out newsworthy topics and turning exceptionally bad writing into passable content, the nuances of grammar and style eluded me. Nominalization what?
Over the last six months, I developed a more critical eye for writing mistakes, and in the process, the pieces I wrote and edited became much stronger. You can find my written work on the ‘Clips‘ tab of my website. My edited work is located underneath this prefatory material. If you want to read stories in my voice, consider reading my blogs. If you want to hear podcasts and radio stories in my literal voice, hit the ‘radio‘ tab. And if you’d like to connect via LinkedIn, Twitter, or email, you can find that information on my contact page.
As a news intern with the Santa Barbara Independent, I covered lots of small events and big crimes in the south county area. Santa Barbara’s paper of record only has two full-time copy editors, who primarily edited the print issue and only addressed typos in online stories if someone pointed it out. I developed self-reliance on my own editing skills to ensure top-notch quality in the work I produced. No journalist likes losing credibility, and cleaning up spelling and style errors are the easiest ways to mitigate that.
When I served as editor-in-chief of The Bottom Line, I was simultaneously a content and copy editor. While my primary role was to ensure that stories adhered to our standard of ethics and newsworthiness, I often found myself line-editing to make a piece readable before I could give meaningful edits. This meant changing months and days to adhere to AP Style and killing as much of the passive voice as possible. (To avoid alerting the original writer that I was re-editing their story for this portfolio, I copied and pasted the first draft to a new document to edit the story.)
In my limited spare time, I helped friends brainstorm and edit their cover letters. While this cover letter ultimately did not win the author an internship, it was an excellent exercise in considerate editing. It’s nervewracking to put yourself out there. Therefore, my goal in editing this piece was to help the writer concretely define their work and experience, and to prune the letter of vague and hedging language.