Wick Communications

The editor’s checklist

In Editing on 15 Jun 2012 at 7:39 am

As I previously mentioned in the Kicker, several of us spoke via conference call recently to discuss the role of a good editor. One of the questions we considered was whether there was a checklist that an editor could lean on when line-editing a newspaper story.

I confessed that I didn’t have such a list. Then I realized I sort of did, though it was only in my noggin. Here, then, are the half-dozen things that I am sure to consider in each story I read from our reporters here in Half Moon Bay:

  • Spellcheck. It’s so easy. Just do it.
  • Pay special attention to display type. You can make a thousand mistakes in any given edition, but the ones that are in 50-point type are going to hurt worst. Go over headlines, cutlines and anything in bold slowly and word by word.
  • Make sure the lede works. Does it engage? Does it reflect the story? Is it unique? Is it accurate? Is it too cute? Does it try to hard? …
  • Check homophones. Right, write; half, have; too, two. When you write quickly, it’s easy to make mistakes with these. And almost nothing makes a writer appear more ridiculous.
  • Proper proper names. Names must be spelled correctly every time. Period.
  • Quotes are important. Putting words in the mouths of others is a big responsibility. Make sure you accurate, that there are no typos, and that the quote serves the story. Which leads me to:
  • Redundancies. Very often reporters will state something in the prose only to then have some official say essentially the same thing in a quote in the very next sentence. I hate that.

Your list may differ. It may be even better. If so, I hope you’ll give it to us as a comment here.


  1. I try to keep in mind the 7 C’s of copyediting —


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