August 2, 2012

Lessons in copy editing #3

6) Keep a list of your errors

When you make an error more than once, it goes on The List - a collection of your frequent errors and slips. I hate doing this, to be honest, because fixating on my errors (which I tend to do) makes me feel about this big:

O-|—<          (actual size shown)

BUT I find I need to write down my mistakes to absorb them; just looking at the red ink doesn't cut it. Keep the list by your desk for quick reference and once you can reflexively spell/conjugate/modify that swatch of the English language correctly, cross it off The List.

8) Keep historical copies of articles you edit

Like running out a line of string behind you as you enter the dark woods (none of that breadcrumb garbage, we all know how that turned out), keeping previous copies will let you backtrack in a hurry. If you don't do this and your editor comes to you, asking you reinsert material you cut, you'd better have a good tap dance ready, Gene Kelly style.

7) Get ready to be unsung

Reporters get the credit. Fair enough, they do most of the leg work, ferreting out stories, interviewing people,  drawing it all into one compelling narrative...

Except for the times the narrative isn't compelling, interviews are missing, facts are wrong or words are misspelled. Then copy editors step in. On a number of occasions, I've seen Free Press copy editors take an average (or worse) story and massage it into good journalism.

And they don't get any public recognition for it. Every now and then a headline will elicit a remark, but that's about it. And a sense of a job well done.

All that to say, if you're going into journalism and you're packing a substantial ego, you definitely want to avoid copy editing. But do thank your copy editor! I've also witnessed rare occasions when a reporter/columnist has wandered over to the pagination area to thank a copy editor for catching an egregious error or typing the perfect headline. Gratitude will get you a lot of traction.


Thank you Lara, Laurie, Stacy, Andrew, Pat, Ron, Bud, Ben, Scott, Kelly, Greg, Steve, Mike, Darron, Dave, Chad, Randy, Jill and any other copy editors I haven't met in person. You've been very kind in putting up with me. Four more weeks darlings, four more weeks.

1 comment:

  1. The content information having unique and informative is the basic work of Copy editing.