Maria Heintzinger has never been to Mars, the planet.
Maria has always lived in the surrounding communities of Pittsburgh and graduated from Mars Area High School. For college, she chose Slippery Rock University (SRU), a smaller Pennsylvania state school. There she earned a bachelor’s degree in public relations and minored in business administration; the school’s communications program helped launch her career.
During her undergraduate studies and following graduation from SRU, Maria had internships with Armstrong Group of Companies and the public relations agency, Havas PR Global Collective (U.S.), respectively, where she eventually became an account coordinator. In this role, she composed news releases, blog posts, eBlast copy, flyer copy, social media strategies, website copy—you name it!
“I knew throughout my secondary education that I wanted to do something related to English and writing in my career, but it was during my news journalism and broadcast media classes that I decided to pursue public relations,” she says of her original focus on this field.
“It seemed to combine all the aspects of communications that I was skilled in and enjoyed. My volunteer and internship opportunities also helped me to focus on those skills while making a difference in the community—the best of both worlds! Ironically enough, I ended up working in public relations for a relatively short time in my career, and I have become more specialized in internal communications.”
So why the switch, and why us?
Down-to-Earth Skills That Benefit Others
“I’ve been at MedExpress, an urgent care company that is part of Optum and UnitedHealth Group, for a little over five years,” Maria says.
“As one of the senior writers, I was tasked with editing our weekly internal newsletters that are distributed to our employee base. I soon realized that it was my favorite part of the work—and I seemed to have a strange knack for it. I began to look into other opportunities to pursue this newfound passion and refine my skills, which is how I came across the Professional Sequence in Editing.”
The Editing sequence comprises four courses that must be taken in a specific order:
Grammar, Mechanics and Usage for Editors
Gain a practical understanding of grammar and the logic governing syntax and punctuation use.
Editorial Workshop I: Introduction to Copyediting
Get an overview of the editorial process, including style manuals and reference books, style sheets and querying.
Editorial Workshop II: Intermediate Copyediting
Refine querying technique and learn how to approach the issues that arise.
Advanced Editorial Workshop
Examine two phases of substantive editing—line editing and developmental editing—and learn the art of proposing editorial changes.
“I had just started the online Editing sequence around the same time that my fiancé and I moved to Zelienople, which is a suburb north of Pittsburgh,” Maria recalls.
Editing takes practice, and one of the many ways to gain experience and practice those skills is to volunteer your service.
“One of my instructors had recommended volunteering to gain some additional experience and portfolio work in editing, and I already had been looking to get involved in our small community. I reached out to the Zelienople Community Park to see if they needed any volunteers to edit their communications—e-newsletters, website copy, advertisements, et cetera—and in a short time, I went from volunteer to board member.
“If you appreciate the art of editing and want to refine your skills, then you’ll love this program.”
“In the time I’ve been volunteering with the park, we have implemented a new newsletter design (with cleaner copy, thanks to editing!), started a communications internship program with local colleges and are about to launch a brand-new website,” she says.
With her skills in corporate communications and honed editing chops as a result of our Editing professional sequence, Maria is upping her game at her day job with MedExpress. She’s gone from an internal communications manager, which included editing company communication following style guides, to a senior communications manager for strategic initiatives, which includes developing communication plans that require comprehensive messaging.
And how has the program aided in her discovering new career goals?
Encouragement + Proficiency = Expertise
“I finished the sequence in about a year and a half, taking two courses in 2019 and two in 2020,” Maria says.
“All of the instructors were so motivating, insightful and supportive, especially when I was just getting my feet wet with copyediting and understanding what a career in the field could look like. While I had been working in communications for several years, I was a rookie when it came to editing, and their encouragement helped me feel like I was in the right place.”
“She provided commentary throughout each module that tied our assignments back to the foundation of editing, and she pointed us toward some great resources for when we started pursuing copyediting work. As someone who would like to someday transition her career to editing full time, it was energizing to learn from instructors who had so much experience in the field and could share their firsthand knowledge.”
Regarding all of the online courses, Maria continues, “The classwork definitely challenged me—in a good way—and it was set at a pace so that I could work a full-time job and still complete my assignments on time. I recall working on the assignments, even the final manuscripts, and truly enjoying the time spent.
“I felt so accomplished when I finished a course within the program, and I walked away with much more knowledge about grammar, querying, the overall editing process and the industry itself.”
“All of the instructors were so motivating, insightful and supportive.”
The courses’ online fixed-date format lends structure to your scheduling while being flexible for when you actually sit down to complete your work. That can mean you and your classmates might not be online exactly at the same time but they may be logging in to submit assignments the same day as you.
“Being able to complete the courses online was a huge benefit, and the instructors do a great job of initiating a culture of interaction between the students,” agrees Maria.
“It’s an open environment to ask questions and learn from one another. Not only was it nice to see familiar classmates as I moved from course to course, but it also created a sense of camaraderie between those of us completing the sequence together.”
Shoot for the Stars
In addition to honing her editing and grammar skills for her own benefit, Maria has unexpectedly become an in-house mentor to her marketing colleagues at MedExpress.
“Becoming a better editor has strengthened my writing and improved my mentoring skills. I’m known as the ‘grammar nerd’ at work, and my fellow communicators often come to me with questions on syntax and punctuation,” she says.
A stickler for proper grammar before starting the program but by no means an expert, each of the courses deepened Maria’s interest and abilities. But it was the first course, Grammar, Mechanics and Usage for Editors, that she found particularly humbling.
“I could tell when something just didn’t sound right in a sentence, and I could usually fix it, too, but I couldn’t explain the parts of speech and sentence structures,” she says. “I hadn’t reviewed any of that since my high school English class! While I’m sure identifying subjects, verbs and different kinds of phrases will always give me pause, I’m much more comfortable at breaking it down—and I have a plethora of great notes to refer to when I get stuck.
“Now when reviewing a colleague’s writing, I’m able to effectively explain why I’ve made certain suggestions or revisions to enhance their copy, and I feel much more confident in doing so.”
Being proficient in editing in her current communications role is just one step on Maria’s career path.
“I owe so much of my knowledge to the Professional Sequence in Editing, and I am looking forward to using these skills more and more as I pursue a career focused on editing. I can say without a doubt that completing this program was valuable to my career development.”