The challenge of clean copy editing

copyeditingCopy editors are the last line of defense at any news organization. And one of the bigger hits to the size of newsroom staffs have come on the copy desk.

It’s difficult, thankless work. I’ve done plenty of it myself. Usually the only thing you hear about are the mistakes. That’s why it’s good for contests to have a headline writing category, to give a little recognition to those in the trenches. Copy editors are the offensive linemen of newspapers.

The problem of errors making it into print will always be there. But it’s gotten so bad at the St. Augustine Record in Florida, that a reader contest has been initiated.

I am teaching an editing and design class this semester. I offer the students extra credit for finding errors in news copy. It is the only class in which I offer extra credit. One student has already sent me three items. The limit is 10. Each error they find is worth half a percentage point on their final grade. So it could be worthwhile to get all five possible points and raise that letter grade from a B+ to an A- or an A- to an A.

I do keep a running file of the more humorous mistakes I come across, whether it be in news copy or campus-wide emails.

It’s odd that I write about this and know the value of good copy editors, but I have no one to edit or even proofread my blog postings.

So if I make a typo or any other sort of error, please point it out. I would rather fix it than have someone else find it.


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