Course Title: Develop writing and editing skills

Part B: Course Detail

Teaching Period: Term1 2013

Course Code: COMM5397

Course Title: Develop writing and editing skills

School: 345T Media and Communication

Campus: City Campus

Program: C4171 - Certificate IV in Professional Writing and Editing

Course Contact : Program Administration

Course Contact Phone: +61 3 9925 4815

Course Contact

Name and Contact Details of All Other Relevant Staff

Teacher: Ms Penny Johnson
Phone: 9925 4383

Nominal Hours: 120

Regardless of the mode of delivery, represent a guide to the relative teaching time and student effort required to successfully achieve a particular competency/module. This may include not only scheduled classes or workplace visits but also the amount of effort required to undertake, evaluate and complete all assessment requirements, including any non-classroom activities.

Pre-requisites and Co-requisites


Course Description

This course develops your writing and editing skills in a professional context. It introduces you to the publishing process and emphasises the roles, responsibilities and relationships of authors and editors. The course contains a detailed study of English spelling, vocabulary, grammar and syntax, and of paragraphs. You also analyse and assess writing from a range of styles and for different audiences.
The course also focuses on punctuation and style issues, as well as copyediting and proofreading. You learn editing and proofreading mark-up and technique, and handle proofs with numerous design features.

National Codes, Titles, Elements and Performance Criteria

National Element Code & Title:

VBP551 Develop writing and editing skills


1. Ensure the clarity of language  

Performance Criteria:

1.1 The principles of clear language are applied to writings
1.2 Ambiguity, repetition and verbosity are avoided in writings
1.3 Clear and logical connections between phrases, clauses, sentences, paragraphs and sections are made
1.4 Punctuation is used to ensure clarity of meaning and ease of reading


2. Apply the appropriate voice and tone

Performance Criteria:

2.1 The type of authorial voice/s appropriate to the publication are determined and applied to writings
2.2 The language requirements of the publication are analysed and demonstrated in writings
2.3 The language requirements of the readership are devised and incorporated into writings
2.4 Consistency of tone is maintained in writings
2.5 Text is monitored for non-inclusive or potentially offensive language


3. Apply the accepted conventions of grammar and usage to a range of written contexts 

Performance Criteria:

3.1 The conventions of grammar and syntax in written English are analysed
3.2 Words and their meanings are appropriate for the writings
3.3 The conventions governing the expression of numerical data are demonstrated
3.4 The conventions governing the use of quoted material is demonstrated
3.5 The conventions governing the display of illustrations and tables is demonstrated
3.6 The conventions for expressing specialised and foreign material are demonstrated, where necessary


4. Use correct spelling and punctuation                           

Performance Criteria:

4.1 Australian spelling and punctuation conventions are demonstrated in writings
4.2 Alternative spelling and punctuation conventions are applied when appropriate

Learning Outcomes

On successful completion of this course, you will be able to:
• understand the book publishing process and the role of the editor
• apply the fundamentals of English grammar, spelling and vocabulary to a range of written contexts
• use reference tools with confidence, including style manuals and dictionaries
• critique short pieces of fiction and non-fiction according to principles of genre, audience, style and clarity
• communicate effectively in editorial report writing and in author–editor relationships
• apply punctuation correctly and for effect
• use the publishing industry’s technical language and its copyediting and proofreading marks
• edit short pieces of fiction and non-fiction according to principles of genre, audience, style and clarity
• edit and communicate research through delivery of a class talk.

Details of Learning Activities

Classes are a mixture of lectures, discussion, practical exercises and group work.
You learn through:

1. In-class activities:
• lectures
• industry speakers
• teacher-directed group activities/projects
• peer teaching and class presentations
• group discussion
• individual and collaborative projects
• class exercises to review discussions/lectures
• analysis/critique of students’ work

2. Out-of-class activities

• practical exercises
• reading articles and excerpts
• preparing for discussion
• editorial report writing
• project work
• independent research
• revision for tests.

The course website on Blackboard provides information, resources, activities and web links to support your studies. You are expected to manage your learning and undertake an appropriate amount of out-of-class independent study and research.

Teaching Schedule

Semester 1    
Week startingSeminarClassAssessment due datesElements
Week 1 

No seminar
Outline course and requirements
Class talk: Introduction 
Specialist spelling strategies
Tautologies and repetition 
  1, 3
Week 2 

The editor’s role and stages in the book publishing processWhat makes for an effective presentation?
Research and presentation tips
Exploring debates around commonly confused words
uysing tools: dictionaries and usage guides
  2, 3, 4
Week 3 
Hothousing blooming English: perspectives on grammarWhy study grammar?
Players on the stage: introducing parts of speech
Varieties of nouns 
Class presentation proposal 1, 3
Week 4 

Readership and markets in Australian book publishingNouns: plural and possession
Books for different markets and readerships 
  1, 2, 3
Week 5 

No seminar
Labour Day
Revision of language and grammar topics to date
Analysing nonfiction manuscripts 
  2, 3
Week 6 

The author-editor relationshipTest
The editorial report and its purpose in publishing
Introduction to editorial report
Analysing fiction manuscripts 
Editing and grammar test 1, 2, 3
Week 7 

Who’s doing what to whom: sentence grammar part 1Sentence grammar: subjects, objects
Editorial communication 
  1, 2, 3
Week 8
Let’s get active: sentence grammar part 2Finite verbs: tense, voice and mood
Editorial report writing workshop 
  2, 3
Week 9

Microstructural issues: creating effective paragraphsNonfinite verbs: split infinitives, gerunds and participles
Editorial report writing workshop
Exploring the classic paragraph 
  1, 3
Week 10 
Woe is I: the perplexities of pronounsPronouns, case and common problems
Exploring the classic paragraph 
  1, 3
Week 11 

 Balancin act: principles of agreement Agreement of number and gender with pronouns and subjects
Formal and notional agreement
Paragraphs: managing transitions and reducing scaffolding
  1, 3
Week 12 

 The grammatical glue: determiners, prepositions and conjunctionsCommon problems with determiners, prepositions and conjunctionsEditorial report 3
Week 13 

 Word clusters: phrases and clausesClauses and how they work
Coordination and subordination
  1, 3, 4
Week 14 

 Writing with clarity and gracePhrases and how they work
Misplaced, dangling and squinting modifiers
  1, 3, 4
Week 15
23 May
 Industry speakerRevision class
Practice test and discussion 
  1, 3, 4
 Week 16 

 Q&A: Grammar and paragraphingTest 
Semester review 
Paragraphing and grammar test 1, 3, 4
Week 17 Assessment Week - no classes  
Semester break  4 June to 29 June  
 Semester 2    
 Week 1 

Industry speaker

Copyediting and proofreading in the production process
Publisher’s brief for Major Project
Introduction to house style and capitalisation 

  1, 2, 4
Week 2 

 Editing in different contextsCapitalisation and italics
Treatment of proper nouns, titles, and foreign words and names
  3, 4
Week 3 

Types of commas and how to use themConventional ’rules’ for using commas, colons and semi-colons in the Australian context
How fiction writers use these punctuation marks for effect
  1, 4
Week 4 

 Industry speakerFine distinctions in word and sentence punctuation: hyphens and dashes
The grammar and typography of en and em dashes
Writing for Major Project 3, 4
Week 5 

Punctuating dialogue in fictionQuotation marks: fiction and non-fiction conventions
Shortened forms
  3, 4
Week 6 

 Q&A Style and punctuation

Lists, full stops, question marks, exclamation marks, brackets and ellipses
Test revision session

Week 7

 Editing symbols and hard copy techniqueTest
Practice editing mark-up for text and structure
Introducing major editing project brief and schedule
Punctuation test 1, 3, 4
Week 8
 Editing short fictionGuidelines for editing an author’s manuscript
Major project: the author letter and queries
Practice copyediting fiction
  1, 2
Week 9 

Editing non-fictionImproving line writing
Major Project: creating a style sheet 
  1, 2
Week 10 

Treatment of numbers and measurementPractice copyediting
Major Project: in-class editing and teacher meetings
  3, 4
 Week 11 

Legal issues for writers: copyright, moral rights and their implications for publicationRevising key copyright concepts
Copyright and permissions: an editor’s perspective
Analysing case studies
Major Project: first author-editor meetings
  1, 2
 Week 12

Proofreading symbols and techniqueMajor Project: second author–editor meetings 
Blind vs straight proofreading
Practice proofreading against copy
Common proofreading errors 
 (Take-home copyright test due for CUSADM08A Address copyright requirements) 1, 2
Week 13 

Typography, readability and formatsDeveloping an eye for detail
Practice blind proofreading 
  1, 3, 4
Week 14
 Page proofing and layout problems, and how to fix themStrategies for proofreading more complex documents Major project 3, 4
Week 15 

 Q&A Copyediting and ProofreadingHandling illustrations and figures
Test revision
  1, 2, 3, 4
Week 16 

No class
 Proofreading testProofreading test 1, 2, 3, 4
Week 17 Assessment Week - no classes  

Learning Resources

Prescribed Texts

Grammar Handbook 2013 (available from the RMIT Bookshop)
Style Manual for Authors, Editors and Printers, 6th edn, John Wiley & Sons, 2002
The Concise Macquarie Dictionary, 5th edn, Macquarie Library, Sydney, 2009 or The Australian Concise Oxford Dictionary, 5th edn, Oxford University Press, Melbourne, 2009


You are advised to look at the course blackboard site for ongoing updated information.

Other Resources

Overview of Assessment

Assessment includes a written report, an editing project, in-class tests and an oral presentation.

Assessment Tasks

To demonstrate competency in this course, you will need to complete the following pieces of assessment to a satisfactory standard. You will receive feedback on all assessment.

1. Class presentation (15%)
A 10-minute presentation on an aspect of editing, publishing, writing or the English language. Your presentation relates to a publishing context, and to you and your classmates as people who will be working as editors or writers being edited.
Class presentation proposal due Semester 1, Week 3 (26 February)
Presentation due on a date negotiated with your teacher.

2. Editing and grammar test (7.5%)
A closed-book test on spelling, tautologies, word confusions, plurals and the apostrophe.
Due date
Semester 1, Week 6 (19 March)

3. Editorial report (15%)
A 1000-word editorial report on an unpublished manuscript.
Due date
Semester 1, Week 12 (7 May)

4. Grammar and paragraphing test (20%)
A test on all grammar and paragraphing work covered in Semester 1.
Due date
Semester 1, Week 16 (4 June)

5. Punctuation test (12.5%)
An open-book test where you add punctuation to an unpunctuated paragraph and correct punctuation problems in a series of sentences, checking parallel structure and compound words as appropriate. You work with the style provided.
Due date
Semester 2, Week 7 (20 August)

6. Major editing project (20%)
You edit another student’s piece of writing submitted for a simulated anthology. To participate in the project, you submit a 1000–1200 word piece of writing according to a brief. As the editor, you complete an electronic clean up of your author’s piece and then do a hard-copy edit. You edit the piece according to the brief, the demands of the piece and market needs. A one-page reflection on the project as both editor and author details your experience and learning.
Due date
Writing – Semester 2, Week 4 (30 July)
Editing Project – Semester 2, Week 13 (15 Oct)

7. Proofreading test (10%)
An open-book test, where you proofread page proofs according to the brief and style provided. You are marked on your proofreading mark-up as well as your ability to find and correct errors.
Due date
Week 16 (Thursday 7 November or Friday 8 November, no class on Cup Day)

Grades used in this unit are as follows:

80 – 100% HD High Distinction
70 – 79% DI Distinction
60 – 69% CR Credit
50 – 59% PA Pass
Under 50% NN Fail

For further information on the grading system and criteria used, please refer to the course blackboard site.

Assessment Matrix

Other Information

The major learning experience involves studio based exercises, demonstration and production. It is strongly advised that students attend all sessions in order to engage in the required learning activities, ensuring the maximum opportunity to gain the competency.

Cover Sheet for Submissions
All students must complete a submission cover sheet for each piece of submitted work.

Plagiarism - RMIT has a strict policy on plagiarism. For more information on this policy go to Academic Integrity

All students have access to the myRMIT copyright shell. The myRMIT copyright shell contains information on copyright, plus also examples on how to use copyright works as part of your projects and assignments.

Special consideration Policy (Late Submission)
All assessment tasks are required to be completed to a satisfactory level. If you are unable to complete any piece of assessment by the due date, you will need to apply for an extension. Please refer to the following URL for extensions and special consideration:

Work submitted late without an extension or special consideration will be penalised. See the program website for more details.

Student Progress Committee
This committee promotes the early identification of students who are not achieving acceptable academic performance. The committee provides identified students with assistance and seeks to ensure such students are aware of the range of support services available to them at the University. Student Progress Committee (SPC)

Student Feedback
Students are offered opportunities to provide feedback through a variety of mechanisms including online surveys conducted at the end of each course or semester, student complaints and Student Staff Consultative Committees

Course Overview: Access Course Overview