Sub-Editing – Elearning course

The sub is the writer's safety net. This hugely demanding role ranges from checking the clarity, accuracy and consistency of everything that goes out to an audience; to crafting the headlines that sell newspapers and magazines, and pull readers to websites.

This elearning course dissects the role of the sub-editor – from catching misplaced commas to cutting copy to fit.  It provides a step-by-step approach to what must be tackled in a document.  You will learn how a sub-editor analyses news and features stories to see where they can be improved and turns an awkward opening paragraph into a guaranteed attention grabber. We also demystify the art of writing headlines and standfirsts that grab the reader.


Aimed at anyone who is asked to check other people's copy, whether for editorial, professional, academic or personal use.  Particularly useful for those who are taking on the role of sub-editor for a brand, whether print or digital.

The course comes in 4 parts:

Part 1: What sub-editing is.

Part 2: Assessing copy - the fundamentals and news.

Part 3: Assessing copy - features and online.

Part 4: Headlines, standfirsts and captions.

You will learn:
  • What a sub-editor should do
  • How to spot common mistakes
  • How subbing is different for digital and print media
  • How to take a systematic approach to a document
  • The difference between subbing news and features
  • What makes a good intro for a news or feature article?
  • Why order is important
  • How to improve structure
  • Different approaches to headlines
  • What makes a good standfirst
  • How to improve captions

...and much more.

Sub-editing is an ideal companion to our Top 20 Grammar Mistakes and how to fix them and Proofreading courses.

If you sat down and did the course in one sitting, it would take approximately 2-3 hours to complete. However, the exercises and quizzes we include mean it can take longer. You can work at your own pace, and dip in and out of the course as often as you want, and go back to sections to really make sure you've understood. If you have any queries at all, you are very welcome to get in touch with the trainer as often as you want.

We set a 4 week deadline from the point you receive your enrolment information. If you need longer though, you just need to let us know. The course covers:

What sub-editing is
  • Editing material for publication
  • Quality control - checking for accuracy, consistency and clarity of message
  • Creativity - drawing attention to news and features by writing powerful headlines, standfirsts and captions
  • Production - making sure copy fits and that deadlines are met
The role of the sub
  • Checking facts
  • Checking spelling and grammar
  • Checking for mistakes
  • Checking that copy is interesting, readable and relevant to the reader
  • Checking queries with writers
  • Checking for libel and copyright and other legal issues
  • Checking house style
  • Writing headlines, standfirsts and captions
  • Reading proofs at layout stage
  • Signing off pages and sending them to the printer
  • Doing simple page layouts
  • Writing copy for the contents page
  • Making changes in QuarkXpress or InDesign
  • Cutting copy to fit

The skills and knowledge a sub needs

Where the sub fits in the production process

The importance of the reader

Distinguishing between news and features
  • Deciding what kind of copy you're dealing with
  • Subbing them differently
Subbing basics
  • What always needs to be checked
  • Consistency of information
  • Is the language right for your readership?
How news stories are structured
  • The elements that make a good introduction
  • The inverse news pyramid
  • News language
  • A checklist for subbing news
A step-by-step approach to subbing a feature
  • Comparing it to the brief
  • Making a mini assessment
  • Checking the structure
  • Checking the intro
  • Checking the conclusion
How subbing online is different to subbing for print
  • Online readers and how they differ
  • Rewriting copy online including key words and helping the search engines

Building and fostering sound relationships with good, valuable writers

The elements of strong headlines and what they must do
  • Styles of headlines for news, features and online copy
  • Techniques for writing strong headlines
  • The role of the standfirst or "sell" and what it does
  • How standfirsts are used and how to write good ones

Your complete Subbing System


This course is packed with interactive exercises so you can practise what you learn as soon as you learn it.

There are handy tips and checklists at key stages of the course.  These cover vital topics including:

  • Thinking like the reader and always having them in your mind's eye
  • Checking every detail
  • Ensuring continuity when making changes
  • The inverse news pyramid and where to make cuts
  • Looking for anecdotes/quotes for a conclusion
  • Headlines and standfirst devices
  • Adding some context or detail to the caption

and many more.

Karen May is a writer, editor, internal communication specialist and trainer. Her experience in the UK and SE Asia spans customer publishing, entertainment journalism and business publishing.  Karen has worked with teams at Lexus, Cable and Wireless, Tesco and BT. Her training expertise and specialist knowledge encourages rapid practical learning at all levels.

The beauty of e-learning is that you can do it at a time and place to suit you. But you won't be alone! Karen will talk you through the key points to improve your skills and knowledge, and at any time during your e-learning course, you can email her with any queries or comments.

Karen can also give you invaluable one-to-one feedback on your own work. If you buy the trainer feedback option with your course, she will ask you to sub a piece of copy after you have completed the e-learning. She will supply you with individual guidance, comments and practical suggestions. Then, once you've improved your work, she will review your revised content and provide a second set of comments. This unique feedback really brings your e-learning to life and makes sure you have truly grasped - and applied - all of the key principles.

If you would like to receive a Certificate when you have completed your e-learning course, please just let us know and we will arrange for one to be sent to you.

Sub-Editing is £19.99 + tax per user * which gives you full unlimited access to the course for one month. If you need longer though, you just need to let us know.

If you want to add personal one-to-one trainer feedback to the course, the price is £69.99 + tax.

Discounted rates are available for multiple users. The discount applies to this course or a mix of elearning courses. We will give you an immediate 10% discount off your second course if you book with us again.

I really enjoyed the course. I found it easy to follow and the feedback element was really useful. I would recommend it to anyone interested in learning or polishing up their subbing skills.

E-learning delegate