Wick Communications

Posts Tagged ‘Copy editing’

Muddling through without copy editors

In Editing on 29 Jun 2017 at 4:25 pm

Here at the Half Moon Bay Review, we are exceedingly lucky to have a part-time copy editor/proofreader named Julie Gerth. Julie has the patience of a saint as well as a strong backbone. She will not be rushed and she reads every word. Consequently, we have a lot fewer mistakes than many newspapers.

But we still make them, with maddening regularity. And it’s generally because the rest of us get in a hurry.

This week, we screwed up a teaser on the front page. “Horshoe.” That’s not a word. It happened because it was produced at the bitter end, after our second set of eyes had been released for the day. So, we get to see it in display type all week long. I can’t wait till I hear about it from someone outside the building.

We will never eliminate mistakes entirely. It wouldn’t matter whether our copy editor was full time, or if we had a dozen more. We humans are fallible. Perhaps you’ve noticed. But there are some practices that will eliminate many of them in our papers. Here’s a few:

More eyes. We all know that the more people who see page proofs, the better off you are. The eyes don’t have to belong to specially trained copy editors. Ad reps, clerks, other reporters — try to get as many people as possible to read proofs before the pages are sent. Ask them to look for typos, spelling and basic grammar. You don’t necessarily want someone from another department suggesting a new lede to that feature story on deadline. … Read the rest of this entry »


Point out the good stuff

In Editing on 28 Mar 2014 at 8:00 am


Copy editors are a crotchety set. There are far fewer of them than there used to be (and it’s not because we all suddenly absorbed the lessons of the AP Stylebook and Mrs. Sutton’s seventh-grade English class) but those who remain are upholding the long tradition of curmudgeoning, hurrumphing and tsk-tsking. (I just did that to give the copy editors among us something to do…)

That said, they are nearly always right. Such is the case with Philip Corbett, the associate managing editor for standards at the New York Times. The newspaper’s writers may get tired of hearing his critiques, but I doubt they find much fault with those critiques.

Corbett keeps a blog called After Deadline and it is very much worth following. It’s a collection of things he sees and corrects in the daily newspaper and a regular reminder to the rest of us that Times reporters also sometimes have trouble stringing together words in intelligible ways.

I found one particular post most refreshing in the wake of so much stuffiness. (Go to the blog and scroll to “Bright Passages.”) This time, Corbett used his bully pen to note some fine writing. An example:

ATLANTA — The fountains turned into crystal still-lifes in Savannah, Ga. Ducks walked forlornly on iced-over swimming holes in southern Arkansas. School bus doors froze open in Beaufort, S.C. And pipes froze all over as Southerners, who are not born or made for temperatures in the Minnesota digits, had to consider things they typically take for granted. …
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Correcting corrections

In Editing on 28 Mar 2013 at 4:16 pm


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. … Read the rest of this entry »

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? … Read the rest of this entry »

The Subversive Copy Editor

In Books on 4 Dec 2009 at 8:23 am

Some of my favorite books about writing are really about what would seem to be the more mundane task of editing. And now I have a new favorite, “The Subversive Copy Editor.”

Carol Fisher Saller is the editor of The Chicago Manual of Style Online’s Q&A. As such she gets thousands of questions about writing style and usage, ranging from the pedestrian to the truly insane (she once supervised the copyediting for a book called, “Quantum Field Theory in Cured Spacetime and Black Hole Thermodynamics.”)

You probably know the Chicago Manual of Style as that “other” style manual, the one used by book writers and such. That is true. But don’t worry. Saller’s book won’t take you into the nuts and bolts of the differences between her style and our own AP style. Instead, her book delves into the relationships between editors and writers – and other stuff – in a way that is fun and easy to grasp… Read the rest of this entry »

Oh, how the mighty have fallen

In Clay Lambert on 12 Jun 2009 at 9:03 am

Here at the Holier Than Thou Church of the Ultimate Redeemer, we sometimes like to climb upon the high horse and gallopme over the land of lesser journalists, as only a true evangelist really can. From the sturdy steed I can see the fallen – editors who didn’t give enough care, reporters who failed to make that next phone call.

But today I walk, stoop-shouldered, into the confessional. Forgive me, Father, for I don’t always practice what I preach.

Last week, I had the ignominy of learning that I had misspelled or otherwise miswrote two names in a single Kicker post. One is the name of a guy I invite into my living room just about every weeknight. The other is the name of someone that no self-respecting journalism major should even have to look up. (Both have since been corrected.)

And so this is my penance.

I got the names wrong because I didn’t bother to double-check. I was apparently too busy to type M-A-R-S-H-A-L-L M-C-L-U-H-A-N and J-O-N S-T-E-W-A-R-T into the Google machine and see whether I had spelled them correctly. As a result, I have to fall on my sword here and now.

It’s downright embarrassing, actually. Particularly since I was carrying on as if I knew what I was talking about.

Here at The Kicker, I don’t have the advantage of a copy editor; or didn’t think I needed one. Anyone reading this knows that two sets of eyes are always better than one. So, beginning today, I’m going to run these posts by the Half Moon Bay Review proofreader, Julie Gerth. Perhaps she can save me from myself, just as she does in the newspaper… Read the rest of this entry »