Media Mention: University of Washington Professional and Continuing Education

Media Mention: University of Washington Professional and Continuing Education

University of Washington Professional and Continuing Education: Alumni Interview for Certificate in Editing

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Cassandra Overby graduated from the Certificate in Editing program in 2014. In this interview, Cassandra discusses how she uses the skills from the program in her job as a communications associate. She also talks about the lasting professional connections and friendships she developed.

Can you tell us a bit about your current career?

I’m a communications associate for Washington Trails Association. I do a lot of writing, both for our website and our magazine, which is called Washington Trails. I write features, have a book review column and help with some of the gear reviews.

I also do a lot of editing. I edit all of the internal content for the magazine, which includes news articles and department content. I go back and forth with writers from different departments, get their copy cleaned up, get things reorganized if needed and then get it ready to be passed on to the main editor.

Why did you decide to take the editing certificate program?

I had a talent for grammar and editing, but it was mainly self-taught. When I heard there was a certificate in editing, I was really attracted to it because I wanted rules. I wanted to know the structure for things and to be able to say, “Here is what my gut is saying, and here is the reason behind that – here’s the rule.”

Are you using the skills you learned in the program at your job today?

Yes. I’m creating style sheets and doing developmental editing and copy editing on a daily basis. Pretty much everything that we did in the program is something that applies to my work, which is really fulfilling. The skills that I built in the class will be even more important as I continue to move along as a writer and editor.

Did any subjects stand out as especially helpful or interesting?

I really liked the training in how to best speak to writers and how to give feedback in the most effective way possible. Those relationship management and communication skills were really helpful and interesting.

I also especially liked that we covered a lot of story structure and journalism basics. Being able to look at how stories are organized and headlines are written has made me a better writer in addition to being a better editor.

Can you describe the program’s practicum, where you collaborate with an author?

I’m in a writers’ group, and for my practicum, I reached out to one of the ladies in my group who was writing a novel. I edited the first chapter of her novel. It was really helpful to practice going back and forth with an author, writing cover letters and communicating with them often. I did a lot of structural editing and copy editing. That was a really cool opportunity.

Did you learn how to use digital editing tools?

The program was the first time that I used the Microsoft Word Track Changes tool extensively. It was interesting to learn to edit digitally and to work with Adobe Acrobat Pro, too, which I now use in my job. That was something that I brought into my workplace after having learned it in the certificate program.

What do the instructors bring to the program?

Because they do this for their livelihood, they bring a ground level of knowledge that someone who is just studying editing wouldn’t bring. They’re passionate and they present the material in such a way that it’s fun, especially the grammar portion. I really didn’t expect to find their teaching styles so great and amusing.

Did professional editors come to class as guest speakers?

Yes. That was great for networking. I’ve gotten together with several of the guest speakers outside of class to do informational interviews and follow up with them. Being able to send them an email and say that they came into your class and you’d like to follow up, it automatically makes you an insider.

What kinds of companies were the guest speakers working in?

We had some corporate people, including a guy from Eddie Bauer, and some folks from book publishing, including a woman from Mountaineers Books. We also had freelance editors for novels, and then my favorite, the editors from magazines. That was doubly helpful, because I’m a writer and an editor.

What did you enjoy most about the program?

Not everybody loves words, and here were people who love to read, love grammar, love to nitpick little rules. Instead of it being annoying, like it would be out in the world, it’s something that we all geeked out on and enjoyed. We all brought an excitement for the written word.

Are you staying in touch with your classmates?

I ended up sitting by a couple of people who became good friends. We formed a post-class professional group – we’ve been meeting once a month for networking and passing hard questions back and forth, staying in the know and furthering our careers in editing.

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