Copy Editing and Computerized Design

Communications 305

Instructor Tomi McCutchen Parrish

Objectives: This is a laboratory course designed to help you become a careful editor of your own writing and that of others. The three primary facets of this course will be copy editing, headline writing and print/online design and layout. Included will be consideration of news judgment, fairness, balance and diversity, law and ethics, AP style, grammar, spelling, punctuation and word usage.

Prerequisite: Communications 200 (Introduction to News Writing) or permission of instructor


  • The Newspaper Designer's Handbook, seventh edition, Tim Harrower
  • Associated Press Stylebook and Libel Manual (New York: The Associated Press)

Other items:

  • One-inch ring binder for the notebook requirement
  • Pencils for the in-class editing/workbook exercises. Pencils will enable you to erase and hand in neater work. Always bring them with you.
  • Jump drive; you should keep a jump drive with you at all times anyway.


  • Textbook and handouts. Most of the lectures during the semester will be drawn from "Creative Editing" by Bowles and Borden, which I am not requiring you to purchase. Material from the Harrower book will be used throughout the course, but most heavily during the second half of the course. Other sources also will be cited. You are expected to take good notes and study them as well as the material given in the textbook and in the handouts.
  • AP Stylebook. I do not expect you to memorize this book, but it will be wise to become thoroughly familiar with it. It is, after all, the journalist's "bible."
  • Daily news. Read newspapers and/or news sites online regularly. The more you know, the better editor you can become.

Required activities:

  • Prepare for quizzes on editing symbols, grammar, style, word usage, spelling, punctuation and notes from the lectures on editing, headline writing, photo sizing and design.
  • Successfully complete in-class and take-home editing exercises. Both pencil and electronic editing will be involved. We may also complete some assignments via email.
  • Two exams. Exam No. 1 will consist primarily of material covered during the first few weeks of the semester. Exam No. 2 will be a comprehensive exercise, which will be discussed after spring break. Both will be practical and open book, open notes.
  • Prepare an organized notebook of your work. Keep all your work in the 1-inch ring binder and follow the instructions given to you in class as to what should be corrected and how it should be organized.

Grading: Activities will be graded according to the following weights:

  • Project -- 100 points
  • All quizzes and exams (combined) -- 300 points
  • In-class exercises, homework and notebook -- 550 points
  • Participation (attitude, attendance) -- 50 points

Grading scale: Grading will be based on the number of points earned. Letter grades will be given according to the following ranges:

  • A = 900-1000 points earned
  • B = 800-899 points
  • C = 700-799 points
  • D = 600-699 points
  • F = 599 or fewer points

Attendance: It is mandatory. I will take roll each day and will consider absences in borderline grade situations. For those students who, for physical reasons, must ride the elevator, I will be tolerant of problems that arise when the elevators are not working. Be sure to tell me if such a situation occurs.

Accommodations: All students who face medical/physical challenges will be provided appropriate accommodations to meet their educational needs. However, those students must bring me a letter from the UTM Office of Disabilities within the first two weeks of the semester in order to qualify for special accommodations. Anyone who believes he or she may need extra help or may have other special needs should visit the Disabilities Office for information, and should also bring those concerns to my attention.

Respect: The computers in the lab are tools, not toys, and I will not tolerate students checking their email or surfing the Internet while I am lecturing. Lecture time is my time; you may check your messages or update Facebook on your own time.

Late work and makeup work: Not accepted or allowed unless a legitimate reason exists to do so. In case of legitimate crises (school activities, family, health, etc.), notify me as soon as possible, preferably via email or text message. If you are absent and do not explain why, I will consider it unexcused in terms of missed work.

No cheating: Academic dishonesty and plagiarism will not be tolerated. Cheating on quizzes or copying a previous or current student’s work will certainly result in a zero for the assignment without a chance to redo the work and, depending on the severity of the offense, could result in a zero for the course. Plagiarism is defined as using or stealing others’ work and presenting it as your own. If you wish to be sure that you are not guilty of plagiarism, please do not hesitate to consult with me on how to use others’ words in an appropriate manner. If you’ve read your Student Handbook, you already know that plagiarism is a cardinal sin in the academic world and could get you expelled from the university.

Extra credit: I give few extra-credit opportunities in this class. If I do assign extra-credit work, it will have a due date, just like any other assignment. No extra credit will be given beyond the last day of classes.

Reminder: If you have any questions or concerns about the content or direction of this course, or your progress in it, please do not hesitate to contact me. Any discussions we have are privileged and will not affect your grades. I prefer to keep problems to a minimum, and I am here not only to teach, but to help you if I can.

Course outline (tentative)

Jan. 12 – Introduction to course, discussion of syllabus, question-and-answer
Jan. 14 – What is copy editing? Back to basics
Jan. 19 – No class – Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. holiday
Jan. 21 – Editing symbols quiz
Jan. 26-28-Feb. 2-4 – Back to basics continued
Feb. 9-11 – Spelling quiz and grammar/punctuation/word usage quiz
Feb. 16-18 – Basic and “beat” editing, law and ethics, etc.
Feb. 23-25 – Exam 1 (and continue editing)
March 1-8 – Spring Break
March 9-11 – Basic and "beat" editing continued
March 16 – Headlines and photos (possible quiz)
March 18 – Introduce layout/design
March 23-25-30-April 1-6-8 – Layout/design, headlines, photos and Web (possible quiz; project assigned)
April 13-15 – Exam 2
April 20 – Workday
April 22 – Project due

NOTE: Bring pencils, erasers and stylebook to all exams/quizzes. The project requirement is in lieu of a final exam.

Spring commencement is at 11 a.m. Saturday, May 2, 2015.