June 28, 2012

Lessons in copy editing #2

5) The find function

You can scan for a word as hard as you wish, you still may miss it. Your computer, however, will not. If you come across a word that's misspelled (and will likely be misspelled throughout the rest of the piece) or you're looking to strike superfluous "that"s, use the find function. It's usually activated by hitting ctrl + F (or Apple + F). It's not the alpha and omega of editing, but it will help you find those words in a snap.

6) Edit out orphans

"Orphans" or "widows" occur when a paragraph's final line contains only a few characters. In an editor's battle to cut a story down to size, fitting it between advertisements and art, paragraphs containing orphans are the first place to look for possible trims. Why delete an entire paragraph when knocking off a few orphans accomplishes the same feat.

Not this one...                                              this one.

7) Be a news junkie

Finding spelling and grammatical mistakes is relatively easy compared to catching errors of fact. Having not conducted the interviews, seen the scenes or attended the events, a copy editor is fantastically limited in their ability to catch factual errors. What they can do to compensate is read all the news, all the time. If a reporter deviates from accepted facts, the copy editor will be able to spot it. A deviation isn`t necessarily wrong, of course, and news that refuses to say anything not already said is hardly worth the pixels it`s printed on. But you need to be able to identify new twists (or contradictions) in emerging stories and consult your reporter to make sure statements stand on solid ground. There`s no other way to do that than keeping up to speed.

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