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Top tips for running an editing course

Training courses about editing can be run for a number of reasons, such as: teaching colleagues about the editing process; teaching others who want to become editors; and teaching clients (novelists, academics, etc) how to edit their own work. If you’ve been asked to run a training session on editing and don’t know where to start, here are some points you should consider.

Communicate with participants – Think about which aspects of editing you want to cover and what your participants want to learn. If you’re not sure what they want, survey your participants, so that you can tailor a program to suit their needs. Before a course starts, I like to email participants directly, to create rapport. Give them plenty of information about what the course will cover, so that they have realistic expectations. I remember turning up at an organisation to run a training course only to discover that the coordinator at their end had not sent my course information on to the participants – it made for an awkward start to the day, since most people in the room didn’t know what they had signed up for.

Be prepared – If you’re not a confident public speaker, practise! Test the exercises with some willing volunteers, so that you can see how much time is required to complete them. It is also useful to have some extra exercises (e.g. a more advanced editing exercise) available, so that anyone who finishes the tasks quickly can be given something else to work on. Rehearse your presentations to get the timing accurate. I find it useful to make a detailed plan for the entire training (e.g. 10 minutes for introductions, 5 minutes for me to talk about topic 1, 10 minutes for exercise 1), so that I can keep on track of time on the day. If I find I’ve taken too long in one session, I can make modifications during the following session to get back on track as soon as possible. It is frustrating to attend a course only to have the presenter rush through the final session because they are running out of time.

Keep participants busy – Whether your course goes for a few hours in a morning or five full days over a week, be mindful that people get tired when they are sitting in a room for hours on end. Keep them busy with practical exercises, games, quizzes, discussions, etc., and get them moving about the room from time to time, even if it is just to stretch their legs. Watch out for the post-lunch slump in the early afternoon! For groups of up to 15 or so people, try to ensure that everyone is contributing to discussions. For larger groups, where you may not have time for everyone to contribute, include some small-group work so that all participants have a chance to talk to their peers.

Make it fun – I love giving training courses which is why I think most participants say that they have enjoyed the experience. Start the day with a fun introductory activity (ice breaker) and end the day with an activity that allows participants to recap what they have learned, so that you finish on a high. By the end of the day, when people are tired, the energy in the room can be quite low, which is not a great way to end a course. Make sure that you enjoy the experience as well. If you dread the idea of standing up in front of a group of people, think about whether training is the right job for you. Perhaps you could prepare the material and find someone else to present it.

Delivering a training course is a great way to get out of the office and pass on your love of editing to others. If you prepare well and enjoy yourself, I’ve no doubt that your training course will be a huge success.

Dr Malini Devadas is an academic writing coach and editor. After completing her PhD at the Australian National University in the 1990s, she moved to Japan to work in medical research for 4 years. However, she soon realised she was in the wrong career when she found that she enjoyed the writing more than the lab work! After returning to Australia, Malini retrained as a scientific editor. In 2013, she launched MD Writing and Editing, to focus on academic publications and to help scientists and medical professionals improve their writing skills. Malini also runs training courses at universities around Australia and enjoys the opportunity to get out of the office and work with clients in person.

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