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Although writers attract the plaudits (and brickbats) of the literary world, those who work on the editorial side of the business are largely responsible for the finished product. Checking for the accuracy of information and avoiding any legal pitfalls has always been too important to leave solely in the hands of the writer!

Successful subediting is not only an art, but also a very skilful business. It requires an organised mind and a cool disposition, as well as flair, imagination, an eye for detail and an ability to thrive under the pressure of deadlines.

In the early part of this course you are taken through the maze of legal responsibilities and restraints affecting every type of publication. Having understood this, you will learn in detail the range of technical skills required of the subeditor in preparing a newspaper or magazine for print.

Course Syllabus:

  1. Lesson 1: What is a Subeditor?

    The subeditor's precise role, the subbing process and what is meant by 'house style' and 'newspaper English'. The importance of correct grammar, spelling and punctuation; how to transform lacklustre prose into concise, vigorous language - and check all the facts in the process.
    Assessment tasks include:
    Identifying personal aims
    Researching the effective - and inappropriate - use of Newspaper English

  2. Lesson 2: Working with Words

    Learning the importance of accuracy, balance and consistency. Developing a keen 'news sense', and understanding how to structure an effective news story by identifying the strongest angle and intro.
    Assessment tasks include:
    Editing news fillers for publication
    Cutting and rewriting longer stories

  3. Lesson 3: Copy Editing

    How to identify and eliminate wasteful words and avoid using inverted sentences, jargon, clichés and slang. Knowing how to use proof-correction marks; editing and cutting copy against the clock.
    Assessment tasks include:
    Re-writing poorly constructed news intros
    Proof correcting

  4. Lesson 4: Journalists and the Law 1

    Learning when the law restricts what you can write and how to avoid costly legal action. The buck stops where? The dangers of libel and other pitfalls; qualified privilege and unintentional defamation; criminal libel; and the need for fairness and accuracy. Fair comment, malice and slander are explained, along with the risks and implications of mistaken identity.
    Assessment tasks include:
    Reviewing passages for libellous content
    Handling a variety of legal dilemmas

  5. Lesson 5: Headlines

    How to write lively, accurate and appropriate headlines that fit the space available. Exploring the differences in approach on news, sport and features pages: the role of headlines in selling stories to the readers. The need for originality and the pitfalls involved in puns and wordplay; the role of straplines, subheads and taglines. How to recognise stories that call for 'special treatment'.
    Assessment tasks include:
    Identifying effective and inappropriate headlines
    Writing headlines to length for real news stories

  6. Lesson 6: First Steps in Design

    Learning how to convey a variety of messages through the use of type: the factors which decide an editor's approach to design and layout. Getting to grips with some basic design principles; how different techniques are used to achieve specific effects.
    Assessment tasks include:
    Conducting a design analysis of national or regional titles

  7. Lesson 7: Journalists and the Law 2

    The rights enjoyed by the Press and how these relate to those of the private citizen. What is meant by contempt of court; how to recognise situations or stories in which there is a danger of potential contempt. Learning about reporting restrictions, and the particular dangers relating to the coverage of the youth courts and sexual offences. The role and relevance of the Official Secrets Act.
    Assessment tasks include:
    Identifying which reporting restrictions apply in different circumstances
    Handling a range of legal dilemmas in stories for publication

  8. Lesson 8: Subediting Tasks 1

    How to handle and process copy for publication. What options are open for approving, correcting, cutting, changing or 'spiking' stories. A variety of practical subediting tasks help to reinforce the importance of correct spelling, punctuation and grammar, along with ways of tackling some of the taste and ethics issues faced by the subeditor.
    Assessment tasks include:
    Identifying and correcting incorrect spelling and punctuation
    Editing copy for publication

  9. Lesson 9: Planning for Publication

    Planning a publication from scratch: the steps involved in formulating a clear working brief. How to draw up a flat plan and use it to plan content. Drawing up a design brief; the principles behind modular page design. Selecting typefaces appropriate to the character of the publication you are planning.
    Assessment tasks include:
    Planning the content and front-page layout for an 8-page A4 newsletter

  10. Lesson 10: Advanced Design Techniques

    Exploring the means of achieving maximum impact from page layouts; using rules, borders, anchors, hampers and sidebars. How to crop and size pictures and how to incorporate a variety of other design elements: raised and drop capitals, tints, reversals, boxes and borders, in creating complex news and features pages.
    Assessment tasks include:
    Sizing and positioning pictures
    Incorporating text, pictures and other design elements in finished page designs

  11. Lesson 11: Subediting Tasks 2

    Another hands-on opportunity to put your new skills to the test, this time focussing on headline-writing and page design tasks, consolidating and revising the skills you have learned to date.
    Assessment tasks include:
    Writing headlines for publication
    Drawing up pages, incorporating text, pictures and headlines

  12. Lesson 12: Final Briefing

    This final lesson gives you the vital preparation required to launch your subediting careers, whether on a full-time or part-time basis. Detailed revision notes provide an opportunity to tie up any loose ends in your training, with business-like advice aimed at pursuing a professional approach to future subediting assignments.
    Assessment tasks include:
    Drawing up a personal 12-month action plan with clear achievement targets

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