Essentials of written English

A basic course on writing and editing

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Essentials of written English

Course details

Suggested timeline: 3–6 months into editing

Total time: Approx. 23½ hours


Course description

It doesn’t matter even if you can speak English fluently; it is still insufficient to become an editor. In fact, spoken English and written English require different skill sets altogether. Writing and editing have more to do with a person’s thinking processes than with the ability to speak the language well. Almost anyone planning to become a writer or editor will benefit by taking this basic course on written English. This course discusses the fundamental principles (“rules”) behind any kind of writing and editing in the English language. The basics presented here are so all-encompassing that they form the base for both the intermediate and advanced courses in copyediting. The course will cover the following broad areas:

  • Components of a sentence and basic sentence patterns
  • Apostrophe
  • The sentence as a complete unit of thought
  • Serial comma
  • Subject–verb agreement
  • Restrictive and nonrestrictive elements
  • Keeping related words together
  • Introductory constructions
  • Pronouns
  • Joining independent clauses
  • Colon
  • Dash
  • Parallelism
  • The interconnections between the rules
  • How to actually use these rules in writing/editing (theory/flowchart)
  • Differences between British and American spelling
  • Live editing of a few pages of a manuscript using the principles outlined above

It is possible to do any kind of writing or editing with a solid understanding of these principles. It is based on 14 principles culled out from Strunk and White’s Elements of Style. In a way, this might even be a resurrection of Strunk and White. Arthur Plotnik in his book Elements of Editing had this to say about Elements of Style: “You don’t refer to this quintessential little book of grammar, usage, and writing tips; you re-read it, twice a year.” I know it is redundant, but every time I remember that advice and come to “twice a year,” the words “every year” echo automatically in my brain—possibly because that’s what I had been doing almost instinctively for more than a decade. And today I know that I have evolved a course that is simplicity itself. In the deepest core of my heart I know I have the blessings of Strunk and White for having hand-picked the gems they gave out to the world and for making them into a garland of rules, each one leading to the other in such a logical way.

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