We use various methods of training at Prepress Projects. We hold in-house seminars on specific topics (such as Word’s wildcards or dealing with electronic artwork) and our staff also occasionally attend external training courses, such as those held by Publishing Scotland or the Society for Editors and Proofreaders. We even have a training support scheme to fund the cost of longer courses of study through distance learning. However, inevitably, a major part of training is learning on the job. As part of our quality assurance process, a senior member of staff checks the copy-editing of more junior team members, and this results in extensive feedback.
One thing that causes difficulty for everyone learning copy-editing is grammar. Even those members of that rare breed who were taught grammar at school have difficulty in applying the rules in practice and when we discuss training needs during performance appraisals, the subject of grammar comes up again and again.
Consequently, we recently held an all-day grammar training course within the company. We wanted everyone involved, and we wanted the day to be both useful and fun, so we were spoiled with a buffet lunch.
A number of challenges had to be faced: what material should be covered, how should people be organised, in what way should it be taught? Was it even a good idea to try to fit everything into one day?
Where would you start if you were holding a grammar training day?
We asked staff for ideas on what they wanted. We posted the topics so people would know them in advance and so that, if they wanted, they could bring examples of difficult cases they had encountered for discussion.
Each manager led a session on a specific aspect of grammar, with a focus on the problems we are most likely to encounter. We covered punctuation, apostrophes, word problems, sentence problems and ‘miscellaneous bad writing’. We discussed the theory, put it into practice through examples, and then discussed the examples. There was an emphasis on handouts, so staff could study the material at their leisure and refer to it in future if necessary.
We surveyed staff afterwards to determine what they liked and what they didn’t like about the day. We received mixed responses.
What did we, as managers, learn? Probably a lesson in management that we knew already: everyone is different.
Each person has his or her own quirks that he or she cannot get around. One style of teaching is fine for one person, but another will dislike it. It’s too simple for one person, but too difficult for another.
It was good to focus on grammar for a whole day, as this is fundamental to what we do and yet still causes problems – even the more experienced among us have weak spots when it comes to grammar. However, the best indicator of success will be the extent to which the theory is applied in the short, medium and long term.