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Correspondence Courses

Copyediting Fiction

Cost $135 for the United States; $140 for Canada and Mexico; $145 for other countries
Instructor Zipporah Collins

What the Course Covers

Many copyeditors love reading fiction and would enjoy editing it. If you already know how to copyedit generally, this course will tell you what you need to know to copyedit fiction, whether novels or short stories, written for adults or young adults. (Children’s fiction for ages below young adult differs in so many respects that it demands a separate course.) Some of the work in this course also applies to other categories of manuscripts that share elements of adult fiction, including biographies, dramas, literary nonfiction, memoirs, screenplays, and poetry. However, several of these categories (such as dramas, screenplays, and poetry) also have elements that are not discussed in this course but that copyeditors must recognize and deal with.

Copyediting fiction is like other copyediting in terms of dealing with issues of consistency, grammar, punctuation, usage, and spelling, but even in these matters the fiction copyeditor has to allow the author greater leeway in the interests of creativity and expressiveness. One critical skill you need to develop is figuring out which “errors” to leave alone and which to correct.

This course focuses primarily on the ways in which copyediting fiction differs from other copyediting, and it assumes that you already know how to copyedit. It does not cover basic copyediting rules, tasks, and procedures or define terms that copyeditors are familiar with, such as style sheet, series comma, and cleanup. If you have not been trained as or worked as a copyeditor, or have not at least gained familiarity with copyediting by working in a closely related position, you will probably want to take a class or correspondence course to learn copyediting before tackling this course. You’ll have an easier time understanding and getting the most out of this course if you do.

Materials and Supplies

When you enroll, you will receive a package containing a coursebook (52 pages), self-review packets for two assignments (4 pages each), and a mail-in exercise (2 pages). If you prefer to edit on-screen, the coursebook tells you how to obtain electronic files of the assignments. The only other materials you'll need are a computer with Microsoft Word or a similar word processing application in which you can track changes or, if you prefer to copyedit on paper, a pencil (a bright color is recommended) and an eraser.


In the Copyediting Fiction course, first you’ll read and absorb some information and look at examples. Then you’ll put what you have learned into practice with a short assignment. When you’ve completed the assignment, you’ll correct it yourself, using self-review materials included in the course package. After reading more information and looking at more examples, you’ll do and self-correct a second short assignment. Finally, you’ll read about and see examples of a few more aspects of copyediting fiction, and you’ll do a third short assignment that you send in for the instructor to review and return with comments.


To benefit most from the course, you should plan to read the first 24 pages and do the first assignment without taking breaks of many days (for example, allow about 30 minutes a day on 3 or 4 days within about a week, or allow about an hour a day on 2 or 3 days within a 5- or 6-day period). Then do the same for reading the next 6 pages and doing the second assignment, within about 3 days. And finally read the last 17 pages and do the send-in assignment within another week or so. That way you will practice what you’ve been reading before a lot of it has slipped out of your mind, and the practice will help you retain the information. Assignments will not be accepted more than 1 year after you register.

Zipporah Collins has been a freelance copyeditor and project manager for more than 30 years. She has worked for Bay Books, Chronicle Books, KQED Books, McGraw-Hill, Pomegranate, Tricycle Press, Wadsworth, and many other publishers, handling a variety of trade, text, and technical books. She has taught courses in various aspects of publishing through Bookbuilders West, Media Alliance, and UC Berkeley Extension, as well as through Editcetera.

Course Manual Contents

Questions and Answers

Registration Form for Correspondence Courses (PDF)

PayPal Registration Form for Correspondence Courses



The instructors were approachable, engaging, and very knowledgeable about the subjectslarge-white-quotes


A Student