Continuous Learning for Copyeditors

by | Jan 26, 2019 | Making of an editor

Imagine a scenario where a well-feared and respected macho man – popularly known as the cinematic “don” –  is approached by an unsuspecting hero who seeks revenge and ultimately defeats him. Have you ever stopped to wonder why movies portray this seemingly unrealistic scenario? Well, continuous learning is most probably the key to our answer. Before you call me crazy, let me explain myself.

In physics, we learn the importance of momentum and how across a continuous path, an object gaining momentum has a larger impact when hitting its target. An object moving along a linear path without any external stimuli loses speed and comes to a halt faster than an object moving along a path with dips in it. The dips help the object gain momentum by converting the potential energy into kinetic energy. Ok, enough of physics. So loosely speaking, the idea is to convert the potential into skill in our game. Without the external stimuli – which is nothing but continuous learning – the potential editor only remains that way – a potential editor, not realizing their great editing skills.

Continuous learning keeps the momentum and makes you a better long-term player

The same way, in the case of our defeated don, we witness the path of the hero who is focused on his target; practicing and plotting continuously with the aim of defeating the undefeated don whose only folly was unpreparedness and contempt. So, you can be the best editor in the game… a hero of words in fact! But you must beware for even those who may have started off weaker than you can surpass the greatest through regular practice and updated reading. Let us see how we can avoid becoming a defeated don of words.

Continuous learning expands the knowledge horizon

English is an ever-evolving language. We find dictionaries updated every year, and with the rise of the internet, we find new words and trends in language cropping by the minute. This makes it increasingly essential for an editor to keep updated through continuous learning.

A scientific approach to continuous learning shows that the brain tends to lose information over time as it is overlapped and buried by the onslaught of new information it comes in contact with every day. Research says that only a fraction of what we learn is retained by the brain. Some of the memory is categorized as immediate memory, which lasts only a few milliseconds; some are working memory, which lasts for minutes; and some are part of long-term memory – you remember them for as short as a few hours to life long. Not all things we learn about editing are applied in our everyday editing. Without continuous learning, the brain loses most of the information it has previously stored.

Continuous learning thus not only refreshes the memory, but also adds new, relevant information as you are on the constant quest for new knowledge.

Continuous learning increases productivity

Continuous learning and practice helps keep the most important skills at our forefront, making the skill almost second nature to us. Great athletes have described the phenomenon as tuning their mind to go into “autopilot” when it comes to repeatedly practicing their skills. Think of sportspersons whose brain is constantly challenged by the need to take decisions in split seconds. Sachin Tendulkar once said, he gets only “0.5 seconds to react to a ball”. Think of surgeons who operate on people. Such quick decision-making is possible by training the brain for the auto-pilot mode.

You may have experienced this yourself. Think about it. Were you really paying attention to the usual road you drive back from work? However, weren’t you completely aware when you drove along a new route? What’s the difference? In the first case, your brain is in the auto-pilot mode, which is a result of driving between your work and home hundreds of thousands of times. On a new route, you need to take decisions at every interjection, which is consciously done by the brain as it is processing new information.

As an editor, we are faced with the need to make editorial judgements so many times in a day. Some of these are done like a breeze; some of these are done with some thinking and basic research before making a decision. If your brain is going to spend the same amount of time before inserting a serial comma as it would before deciding to set the “subject–verb disagreement” because you correctly recognize the syntax to be conditional, you are not productive. Hence, you are unnecessarily overworking your brain.

Have you heard about the dress codes of Barack Obama or Mark Zuckerberg or Steve Jobs? They stuck to the same combination of trousers and shirts, and famously claimed that they saved a lot of time by skipping the need to think about the choices.

Training the brain for the auto-pilot mode also has the advantage of increasing your productivity. The less time you have to spend on decisions, the faster you will be able to edit. This is nothing but making editing second nature to you.

So, keep practicing to ensure your relevance in the field of editing thereby increasing your indispensability.

How can I ensure continuous reading?

Those that are naturally reinforced through daily editing remains fresh in the memory, whereas you don’t come across the nuances so often and there is a possibility to forget that. Through repeated learning and practice, such things are made to remain in long-term memory.

As the popular and clichéd saying goes, “When there is a will, there is a way”. The ways of satisfying your will are quite simplified in the digital age.

Here are some popular means to ensure your daily dose of learning:

  • Subscribe to online newsletters/blogs such as Editor’s Canada, Copyediting newsletter by ACES, and grammar blogs.
  • Taking editing-related online quizzes
  • Connect with online fraternities and chat with online editor’s groups so that you can read diverse views while providing your insight as well.
  • Enroll in refresher courses. Many courses are available on online platforms as well.
  • Participate in editor’s conferences and meetings. These are advertised online so google and search for conferences/meetings in your locality.
  • Engage in teaching activities. Teaching your subordinates will not only refresh your basic concepts, but keep you updated through their questions, their view through fresh minds and helping you research for updates before disseminating your knowledge.

Is continuous learning/reading even needed for me?

I hope that no one really has this question at this point in the article. But, if you do, you may attribute it to a lack of time in your schedule or a tendency to procrastinate or even just a sense of complacency. However, I must warn you that change waits for no one and language updates will keep coming and going in the blink of an eye. Before you know it, the editing don within you would be beaten by the unsuspecting rival who had engaged in continuous learning. What we once were can never come close to what we make of ourselves over time. It’s your call, now!

You can start with your preliminary continuous reading by checking out some interesting links below:

  1. Sony Wilson

    A good article indeed on continuous learning

    • Murugaraj

      Thank you, sony. In particular in editorial setup, editors get an extensive training when they begin their career. However, there is a good possibility that the learning is not sustained. Continuous learning helps refresh the learning as well as keeping one abreast of the latest developments.

  2. Anto Thomas

    Continuous learning is mandatory for everyone not only to copyeditors.

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