Wick Communications

Correcting corrections

In Editing on March 28, 2013 at 4:16 pm

corrections

The image above is a typical example of one of the proofing pages from the Half Moon Bay Review. It is a visual representation of a terribly inefficient process, a process I would like to improve.

Don’t get me wrong. I don’t want to do away with proofing the pages. Editing is by its very nature inefficient. It requires an author at the very least to go over her own work, slowly, letter by letter, looking for typos, context, grammar and all the other things that go into good writing.

The most efficient form of publishing is one man, one blog – just bang it out and post it to the Web. You see it every day. Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t. Well, we aspire to be more professional than that.

At the Review, our process works something like this. Reporter files story. Editor reads it and moves it to another folder. Paginator puts it on page per editor’s instructions, then either the editor or our part-time copy editor gives it the once over.

There are at least three things wrong with this process. …

The first is that sometimes a single set of eyes – mine – is looking at the story twice. There is probably a scientific description of why one person can miss obvious mistakes that most other people catch. That is a frightening fact when you sometimes deal in 60-point type.

Secondly, when the copy editor catches things that I don’t, it causes redundant work for whomever puts the page on the screen. It would be a joyous day if we figured out how to make all those corrections before the story is paginated.

Lastly, it isn’t enough. Even if we could make the lion’s share of these corrections on the computer first, there would still be mistakes in print. Two sets of eyes isn’t as good as three, and so on.

Here’s my plan, such as it is. I want to try to get our copy editor in earlier to read more stories before they are paginated. We should catch fewer things at the proofing stage that way. And I also want to come to some agreement about minor corrections that are more a matter of writing style than AP style. Some corrections, it seems to me, are less corrections and more improved writing. Sometimes we have time for that and sometimes we don’t.

There are all sorts of editing tips online. I agree with all this stuff … that doesn’t mean we always have time for that in our line of work.

Clay

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  1. How fortunate you are to have a copy editor. In Nogales, anyone and everyone is encouraged to read the pages. Sometimes that is thinned out to just two pair of eyes depending on the workload and how close we are to deadlines.

  2. Clay, I am sure you know better than anyone that for many years, I wrote the story, I edited the story, I put the story on the page and then I proofed the story on the page. Any on most days that one story was one of six or eight that I filed that day. One person, one set of eyes. I was constantly crucified by readers for typos in my stories, some calling for my termination based on the fact that my stories had more typos in them than those of the reporters. Of course they did. Those stories got two sets of eyes before going to press. It is the reality of newsrooms today. Not sure if the readers grasp that when they see newsrooms on TV filled with reporters and copy editors.

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