In her ACES 2018 session, Getting Student Journalists to Care About Editing in the Digital Age, Kay O’Donnell presented ways in which instructors can get their students to care about editing in a world with increasingly poor grammar and sloppy writing.
O’Donnell is an assistant professor of journalism and the student media adviser at North Central College in Naperville, Illinois. Before teaching, she worked as a writer and editor for newspapers in Texas and Louisiana.
O’Donnell offered 12 ways to get students to care about editing:
• Hook them early. Make it a habit for life. Young people are increasingly exposed to misinformation and the erosion of basic spelling and basic grammar. Help them realize the importance of avoiding these trends.
• Show the payoff. Emphasize that it’s never too late to learn editing, and it’s a habit that yields increased credibility and enhanced critical thinking skills.
• Let them know this goes way beyond journalism. Emphasize that editing is a life skill. Emphasize that slow reading, information verification and a dedication to accuracy will make them valuable employees and valuable world citizens.
• Show them attitude matters. Stress that you don’t have to be an expert in grammar to care about grammar.
• Teach them to practice. Practice. Practice. Practice good editing everywhere. Have students write every tweet, text and post as if they’re writing for an external audience. Habits are everything.
• Tell them to know their strengths, but pay more attention to your weaknesses. Emphasize student weaknesses, and work with students to mitigate them. This could mean downloading Grammarly as well as encouraging group editing, even for a short tweet. And sometimes you have to lay down the law. This could mean an explicit review of common errors. However, balance the negative with the positive. Don’t discourage your students.
• Show them they are part of a long, storied past. Remind students that they are a part of an important legacy. Many young people don’t realize the history and legacy of journalism, so remind them. This could mean watching “All the President’s Men” at a weekend retreat or at an extended staff meeting.
• Teach them it’s more than just grammar. Remind students that editing has many layers, including grammar, spelling, fact-checking and context. Grammar may seem boring, but fact-checking and sleuthing may draw them in.
• Show them scientists are allowed. Remind students that editing is not just for journalists. It’s an interdisciplinary skill that values simple language, research and teamwork.
• Find the fun. Make editing fun by having group editing sessions with pizza. Have multiple students look over the same pages, so editing becomes a collaborative learning experience. Debates, discussions and disagreements are welcome.
• Reward the good. Acknowledge “good catches” and strong headlines. Use analytics to show students the impact of their work.
• Remember why you love it. Bring energy and passion when working with your students. They will respond in kind. Don’t be afraid to use humor, and encourage them to edit your work, too.
Nolan Brey is a student at the University of Kansas.