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English teacher-turned-editor enjoys mathematics of writing

By Rebekah Sutter
University of Nebraska-Lincoln

Adam Nelson serves as an editor for undergraduate curriculum at Global University in Springfield, Missouri.

Adam Nelson serves as an editor for undergraduate curriculum at Global University in Springfield, Missouri. (Photo courtesy of Adam Nelson.)

Adam Nelson believed he would become an English teacher.

He graduated from Drury University in 2002 with his bachelor’s degree in English literature and continued his education in graduate school at Missouri State.

He never finished.

But Nelson learned the most about writing and grammar while serving as a graduate teaching assistant.

“It’s mathematical,” he said. “There’s a formula to it. Teaching writing taught me the mathematics of writing.”

Nelson worked as a bank teller at Assemblies of God Credit Union, wrote two books, and started a family with his wife. In May 2011, a position opened up at Global University to be lead editor for undergraduate curriculum in Springfield, Missouri, where Nelson calls home. Authors serve as content experts. After they send in their material, the university prioritizes it to be published.

“A major part of our job is coaching the authors to write the material in a way so the student can get the most of what they need from it. In some cases we have to do a little writing ourselves,” Nelson said in a phone interview.  This may include editing errors out of course material.

Nelson’s department of three full-time editors coordinates with the deans from the different schools associated with Global University.  Sometimes, they edit material for other departments such as the marketing department.

What Nelson considers the best part of his job may seem surprising. “My favorite part of my job is when I really don’t have to work with people,” he said. “When our courses have been developed and I can work my own editing magic on it. I can fix what’s wrong with the course. Those are easy tasks to take care of and cross off a list.”

The most difficult part of Nelson’s job comes when an author can’t write. “We’ve already contracted with them …but they’re not teaching anything. They want to impress the students with their anecdotes. They don’t want to fix their writing style. They’re writing their own memoir. They have big egos.”

Having good writing skills is very important, he said. For example, a resume needs to be free of errors. “You need to have a proper voice or you’ll come across wrong. The written word is the first presentation of yourself.”

When asked what advice he would give to college students wanting to be editors, Nelson said to be personable and be able to get along with a variety of people and egos. In some cases, you have to tread lightly.

Nelson said maintaining schedules and deadlines are important as well. “Some of us prefer to be reclusive, but you have to be able to step out there and be proactive with people.”

Finally, Nelson said that working in a religious environment makes his job easier at times. The university has a weekly chapel service to remind them of their purpose. “We get so passionate about our work that we may step away from the work of the Lord… [but in the chapel,] you can feel the presence of the Lord. There’s so much grace here at Global.”

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