This is a piece written by Dr. Mothi Paul of Tirunelveli, who took up The Art of Copyediting's Foundational Skills for Employability and Earning training and mentoring program recently. I'm publishing it here (along with my blogs) as Dr. Paul does not yet have a website of this own.
How can one learn copyediting? Will a brushing up of grammar help me to edit efficiently? Where do I start? Is there some sequence of learning to be followed? Is there a method to this madness? Questions such as these were weighing in my mind when I switched from academia to copyediting. Having authored over 30 research articles in the field of chemistry, I was feeling confident about my skills before the work pressure and tight deadlines forced me to think otherwise. These moments made me realize that I was too dependent on my intuition, and some sentences were perhaps pushing me to endless guessing.
I understood that to truly grow in copyediting one needs to have a firm grasp of the basics. I hurried through grammar books, web pages, and free online resources. But the more I delved into these, the cloudier seemed my understanding. While trying to make sense of disparate ideas, I was certainly drifting far and wide, with no end in sight. What I desperately needed was a methodical approach, careful guidance, and authoritative teaching.
It was at this point, while searching on Google, that I found The Art of Copyediting by Dr. Venkat. The website seemed like a treasure house of so many courses. I also watched a webinar replay by Dr. Venkat, who had just then (in June 2022) rolled out an Art of Copyediting training and mentoring program called Foundational Skills for Employability and Earning. This program comprised four online courses coupled with live mentoring sessions. I enrolled for the program immediately.
I must admit that the whole experience has been so overwhelming, as there was something to be learned almost every moment. Now after completing the program, I have no doubt I am on the right learning path.
The program is structured as online learning modules coupled with live mentoring sessions. The four courses included in this program are (a) Essentials of Written English, (b) Sentence Patterns 1—The Restrictive–Nonrestrictive Conundrum, (c) Sentence Patterns 2—The Number of Subjects and Number of Associated Actions, and (d) Sentence Component Analysis and Identification. The online learning modules were flexible, as I could choose to do them at my own time and at my own pace. The live mentoring sessions were conducted on alternate days. It was possible to choose my preferred time for the live mentoring sessions.
What I loved about the online learning modules was the possibility of taking breaks whenever I wanted, to help me assimilate the concepts I’d learned. I could even revisit the difficult sections multiple times, to my own satisfaction. The live mentoring sessions, on the other hand, tested and reinforced the concepts learned from the online learning modules. They also made me really think—and think deeply! I must say that this two-pronged approach (online modules and live sessions) really worked wonders. It kept me on my toes in that I was never carried away by the concept of learning at my own pace. That’s how I was constantly steered to maintain pace. After some sessions, I could clearly know that I was moving ahead in a steady manner.
Dr. Venkat has a profound way of teaching. It is always interspersed with clear explanations, discussion of live examples from manuscripts, and apt anecdotes. His wealth of experience speaks a lot in all sessions. I have learned a lot from the way he handles sentences; his reiteration of the idea of learning to read and understand a sentence correctly has been an eye-opener for me. My comprehension of restrictive and nonrestrictive elements has also reached a whole new level—far beyond what we generally understand from books. I am particularly grateful for his immense patience during the initial mentoring sessions, when my mind used to go completely blank. He used to gently provoke and kindle my thoughts to trigger the right questions as well as the right answers. That was real training!
This is absolutely not an ordinary grammar course where one is constantly stifled by myriad grammatical terms. Granted that we can’t get away without grammar while attempting to learn a language at the professional level; but the approach here is different—there is logic and reasoning in everything.
The value of this course cannot be weighed in terms of the price one pays for it. To me, what mattered most were these: (1) the quality and reliability and (2) the time I saved. Besides these advantages, I am absolutely convinced that the benefits (intellectual and monetary) are going to last a lifetime. That’s probably why I feel that the money was well spent.
I was encouraged to write down notes to involve both body and mind into the learning, and as a result, I have notebooks full of information at my disposal, which will, no doubt, help me in future. What if I need to quickly refer to something during work? For these, I have ready-reference charts and tables, almost 30 in number, covering all the four courses. To me, the mentoring sessions were the most influential: they brought in different perspectives to my online learning and also helped me understand the nuances involved in the practical applications of that learning. I'm so glad that I can access the recordings of my sessions anytime in the future, to pick up anything I may have missed.
As regards the details of what I learned in this program, they are simply too vast to be listed here. But I would sum it up this way: No matter what a person’s understanding of written English, this training and mentoring program will augment it in a systematic way.
And above all, the opportunity to interact with the master will surely help one to grow and mature, not only in one’s career but also in life.