The Editor's Desk

Thoughts on editing for print and digital media

Month: December, 2006

The dude abides

Of all the odd bracketing that pops up in direct quotes, this has to be one of the more puzzling examples. In this quote about resolutions for the new year, what word was removed, and why was “dude” put in its place? This dude would like to know.

First words on Saddam’s execution

Here’s a quick look at some Web headlines on the execution of Saddam Hussein:

The news apparently merits two sirens on The Drudge Report — a designation that is perhaps similar to BULLETIN from The Associated Press.

The rival Huffington Post went without the flash but offered this all-caps headline:


CNN followed a few moments later with this:

We’ll have to wait to see what the papers say.

Winter meetings

The Southeast chapter of the American Copy Editors Society will hold its next workshop in Chapel Hill on Jan. 28. This is an all-day gathering, and the main session will be on the changes in newsrooms and how they affect copy editing.

Cost is just $15 if you are an ACES member and register early. Go here for more information.

Presidents, celebrities and drop-dead headlines

Rachel Sklar at The Huffington Post wonders why the coverage of the death of Gerald Ford hasn’t included a famous front page from The Daily News in New York. She writes:

“The omission of one newspaper headline over the course of an entire presidency and distinguished, honorable career is certainly no big deal, but this one in particular is so colorful, so iconic and so famous that its absence seems worthy of note.”

My guess: The cable networks think that showing “DROP DEAD” with a story about the death of a president is inappropriate.

UPDATE: The latest issue of Entertainment Weekly includes a similar headline — offering evidence that Sklar is correct about the impact of the “DROP DEAD” word choice and structure. The magazine went to print before Ford’s death, by the way.

Ombuds and editors

Editing issues are included in these recent columns by ombudsmen:

  • Ted Vaden at The News & Observer notes that stories posted on the paper’s site during the day are bypassing the copy desk.
  • James Campbell at The Houston Chronicle discusses the paper’s corrections and includes a reader’s request for more copy editors and proofreaders.

Best. Mixed metaphor. Ever.

From a blog comment about District Attorney Mike Nifong and the Duke lacrosse case:

I’m not running for election as he was when he put this whole house of cards on the front burner.

More on story forms

It’s good to read that the recent Midwest meeting of ACES included a discussion of alternative story forms and what they mean for copy editing. I agree with the designer from Chicago on these recommendations:

  • Content rules.
  • Collaboration is essential.
  • Words aren’t dead. Long live words!
  • Copy editors can be newsroom leaders in deciding when and how to use alternative story forms.

More on alternative story forms here and here.

Editing in India

With all of the talk about copy editing being outsourced to Asia, you may be interested to know that editors in India have many of the same concerns that U.S. copy editors have.

As one editor says in this article on the Clear English India movement:

Jyoti Sanyal, author of the The Statesman Style Book, told Asia Times Online that he was moved to start the project because of “dismay that built up within me through 30 years of editing reporters’ garbage as a sub-editor in an English-language newspaper.”

Blog a cliche

The people at Gawker have compiled a list of cliches from the blog world.

Give us proof, but give us time

This column in the Fort Worth Star-Telegram touches on the issue of proofreading — or lack thereof. Reader advocate David House argues that old-fashioned proofreaders would catch foolish mistakes:

We’re missing a human remedy from the Stone Age that would erect a mighty backup defense against errors that no computer program or harried staffer on deadline could match: proofreaders, those wonderful thinkers, grammarians, spellers and widely read all-around trivia experts from yesteryear. Their roles were absorbed by technology and loaded onto copy editors, and we’ve paid the price in inaccuracies ever since.

At my most recent newsroom job, reading proofs was part of the job description for all copy editors. Granted, the copy desk was often too busy to read each page proof line by line, but the task was not ignored altogether. Section fronts were proofed carefully. In an earlier job at the Greensboro paper, copy editors initialed page proofs to add a layer of accountability.

Even desk managers read proofs. As Nation & World editor at the Raleigh paper, I read proofs from the Business section, partly to make sure the A section had no overlap with Business (Enron stories, for example, that could work in either place). Sometimes that’s all I had time to check; on other occasions I was able to read beyond the display type and do a line-by-line read.

Bottom line: Give copy editors the time, and they will prove that they can proofread.


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