"A Career in Copy Editing"
Introduction to Professional Writing & Rhetoric
I took my first PWR class, Introduction to Professional Writing & Rhetoric, during my sophomore year. The class covered numerous basic tenets of rhetoric, such as logos, pathos, and ethos and the rhetorical triangle, and addressed writing as both a social and situational action. The culminating project for the class required students to create a guide for other students on how to enter and work in a professional writing career, as well as how the career related to various rhetorical concerns. I chose to create a document about a journalistic copy editing career, since I was a copy editor at the student newspaper at the time.
This assignment provided me with my first real experience writing for dual audiences, which also meant writing with dual purposes. On one hand, I was creating the document for my professor with the purpose of proving I understood rhetorical concepts; on the other hand, I was creating the document for college students with the purpose of providing them useful and interesting information on a professional writing career.
There were ways that the needs of those audiences overlapped: both audiences would want clear organization and practical, relevant information. However, I also knew that questions of tone and incorporating research sources would likely have different answers for each of those audiences. Throughout the writing process, I struggled to find ways to meet the needs of both audiences because I felt they were different for a professor and students.
Primarily with the student audience in mind, I opened the document with an introduction that presented a generic situation to briefly illustrate the need for copy editors in a journalistic organization. The tone was more conversational than what I would have usually used in writing for a class, which was something that made me somewhat uneasy when I first wrote it—but I thought it was appropriate for the student audience, so I adapted to that writing need. I also thought that presenting a hypothetical situation for the reader would create a situation where I, as the writer, would presume neither complete ignorance nor any prior knowledge on the reader’s part. In that way, I kept my role neutral and avoided any potential for either condescension or assumption while still creating an introduction that I thought would pique a student reader’s interest.
To satisfy the requirements of my professor, I also tried to incorporate as much research and class readings into the document as possible. Most of the scholarly research ended up in the last section, “The Connection to Rhetoric,” but I used newspaper editorials and other articles from journalistic copy editors throughout to comment on the necessity of editors and what role they fill in a newspaper organization.
I think that because of my uncertainty over the dual audiences, some sections of the document ended up feeling disparate. The introduction, “Why Newspapers Need Copy Editors,” uses an approach and tone that I think work well for the student audience. However, I think I slipped more into formal-academic-paper mode in the following sections and away from the conversational tone I had established in the beginning. The “Connection to Rhetoric” section in particular seems as if it were written purely for the sake of showing my professor what I had learned in class, with little explanation as to why a student might find the information on rhetoric useful. The rest of the document still seems accessible to college students, but in reviewing it fully, I recognize a disconnect between the way the introduction sets up the document and the way the rest of the document plays out.