Frank Fee| University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
Copy Edit the World! uses extra-credit for continual reinforcement and learning. Its premise is that the world would be a more beautiful place with better copy editing. Students see for themselves how precision is important in the work of professionals in their career tracks. Student participation also gives the instructor additional feedback on learning objectives and motivation.
This easy-to-administer program meets two important classroom objectives in a way that promotes out-of-class learning and is fun for students as well. It promotes critical reading and attention to detail in communications
Benefits include that it:
- Provides an extra-credit opportunity that is relevant to course content and objectives and supplements classroom learning.
- Promotes critical reading and sharpens students’ eyes for errors of all sorts.
- Motivates students to become better readers.
- Encourages precision communication.
- Helps identify knowledge gaps and expands the available “teachable moments.”
- Offers students opportunities to apply the lessons of lectures and readings.
- Is self-paced and rewards student initiative.
- Drives home the point that errors of all sorts creep into a wide variety of public communications and that it must be somebody’s job to guard against them.
This program follows reward theory found in management studies. It is:
- Immediate – The points are easily calculated with each entry.
- Consistent – A reward is available for every instance.
- Equitable – Anyone can participate.
- Impersonal – Quantitative, not subjective; students can see what they’ll get.
There is an anecdotal correlation between participation in Copy Edit the World and final grades. Since the extra points go toward a portion of the final grade that is worth only 10 percent to begin with, the reasonable inference is that the exercise sharpens their work in other areas of the course.
Students report the exercise turns them into rabid fact-checkers and editors. Some continue to send particularly egregious examples years after taking the course.
Fosters student interest in precision and using the skills being taught in the classroom; promotes an appreciation of their application in the “real world.”
Lack of participation can be an early clue to the student who is trouble and an opportunity for timely intervention – an office chat.
Lack of participation also offers a discussion point when students come in to complain about low grades (yes, there is a correlation there, too). Bringing up a low or non-existent bonus bank can help students see and take responsibility for their own success.
Examples of Copy Edit the World! items brought in by students show the astonishing range of communications that need good copy editing, from church bulletins to news pages to prescription-drug literature to legal contracts to the Bible.
From the Syllabus: How It Works
If you have not missed a quiz through an unexcused absence, you have the opportunity to gain extra credit by joining the Copy Edit the World! project. Basically, for the first half of the course I give 4 points for an error (typo or other) found in a non-journalistic publication intended for general public circulation, and 2 points for such an error found in a newspaper, magazine or journalism Web site. The rationale is that errors in newspapers, magazines and journalism Web sites are too easy to find, and that by expanding the scope of the 4-pointers you will see how errors creep into lots of other publications (menus, course syllabi, posters, fliers, church bulletins, etc.). The points go to 2 and 1 after midterm. You may hand in examples right up to the last day of class, and there is no cap on the points you can earn. The points are applied to the quiz grades. The instructor is the final arbiter on what counts as an acceptable submission in Copy Edit the World! Submissions must briefly identify the error, say what’s wrong, and show how you’d correct the error, and they must be presented in a tidy package. It is expected that this will be your own work, and not the result of a collective enterprise with dorm mates, family, etc.; please sign the last page of each batch of submissions you turn in, signifying compliance with the University honor code pledge. The instructor reserves the right to amend the rules as experience indicates. Examples amounting to a total of no more than 30 points each will be accepted in each of the last two class meetings.