The American Copy Editors Society is headed to Louisiana twice in the next several months:
As a native of New Orleans, I’m looking forward to combining some of my favorite things: visiting my hometown, attending the ACES conference and eating and drinking well. Laissez les bons temps rouler!
With the fall semester just around the corner, I’ve been thinking about changes to the editing course that I teach at UNC-Chapel Hill.
One area I’d like to focus on more is what research tells us about writing and editing. The objective of academic research, after all, is to create knowledge and make discoveries that can be shared with the world.
For several years, I have mentioned eyetracking research done by The Poynter Institute and similar work by a UNC colleague, Laura Ruel. Students have said that they liked learning about how readers read pages, both in print and online. They have also taken an interest in Poynter’s research about alternative story forms.
This semester, I will add the important research by Fred Vultee of Wayne State University that shows that readers value editing. Vultee presented his findings earlier this year at the national conference of the American Copy Editors Society and again at the recent AEJMC conference.
I’ll also mention a study in the current issue of Newspaper Research Journal that found that grammar errors hinder comprehension and damage credibility. (The study isn’t published online, unfortunately.)
I believe that it’s important to let students — and working journalists — know about research that speaks to our profession. That’s the central mission of efforts at ACES to encourage and promote research about editing.
I encourage others who teach editing and writing to include research as part of your classes. And if you know of studies that speak to those skills, please share that knowledge. I’d love to pass that information on to the writers and editors of the future.
The Breakfast of Editing Champions returns to the AEJMC national convention in St. Louis on Thursday, Aug. 11.
The breakfast, which will begin at 8:15 a.m., is free and open to anyone who teaches editing, appreciates editing or simply likes to hang around editing professors. That should be pretty much everyone.
This year’s breakfast is BYOB: Bring Your Own Bagel. As in years past, coffee will be provided. If you would like to attend, RSVP by signing up on the event’s Facebook page.
The agenda is simple, yet fundamental to journalism that matters: the future of editing and editing education. This year’s breakfast will include a panel discussion on the fast-moving changes in our field:
A highlight of the breakfasts has been the Teaching Idea Exchange, in which we swap assignment and strategies. Jill Van Wyke of Drake University will handle the exchange this year, so send your best teaching idea or tip to her at firstname.lastname@example.org by Friday, July 29. Send her a few paragraphs on your idea and be ready to discuss it for a minute or two at the breakfast.
Thanks to our sponsors for making the event (and coffee) possible: the American Copy Editors Society, Poynter’s News University and the School of Journalism and Mass Communication at UNC-Chapel Hill. Thanks also to the Newspaper and Scholastic Journalism divisions of AEJMC for their support.
See you in St. Louis!
Students in J457, Advanced Editing, are writing guest posts for this blog this semester. This is the eighth of those posts. Laura Hoxworth is a senior studying reporting and French at UNC-Chapel Hill. She loves traveling, everything to do with language, and occasionally playing the ukulele. Follow her on Twitter or check out her blog at http://curelesscuriosity.wordpress.com.
Copy editing is a thankless job. When it’s done well, it’s invisible – and, as follows, it’s one of those jobs that readers only notice if it’s done badly. And according to new research, they will notice.
In a presentation given at the American Copy Editors Society conference in Phoenix, Wayne State University Assistant Professor Fred Vultee showed that readers have an idea of what a good news story looks like and will notice significant grammar errors or confusing organization.
The problem is, with the rise of blogging, citizen journalism and the 24-hour news cycle, online editing often gets shoved out of the way by a pressing emphasis on speed. But according to this research, while readers might rarely finish a good article and exclaim, “Wow, that was some fantastic editing,” they will notice bad (or nonexistent) editing. And that will come back to haunt you.
This seems to go against the newer trend of speed over accuracy. But I would argue that solid editing is even more important when it comes to the Internet. Here’s why: With such an abundance of information and a wide spectrum of credible and not-so-credible sources online, significant errors in online stories (particularly at a website without a well-known print edition) are more likely to affect readers’ perceptions of the website’s credibility in general.
Catching an error in print is less of a big deal because the reader knows, on some level, that establishing a print publication takes time, people, money and a certain amount of credibility. Websites can be thrown together by anyone. Catching an error online is more likely to make the reader doubt the website’s credibility, and turning to another news source takes just the click of a mouse.
This research is an interesting addition to the debate on the evolving state of journalism, but I think it’s good evidence that we can’t sacrifice copy editing for speed, especially online.
There’s also the bigger picture. We need to remember the purpose of those things we editors hold close to our hearts: grammar, punctuation, organization, etc. It’s all for the sake of clarity. As Vultee noted, no one is going to blacklist a publication (or a blog) for a misplaced modifier. But the goal of copy editing is to get the point across in the most clear and effective way.
So while it’s important that websites stand by copy editing to avoid damaging their credibility, producing clean copy should be about more than whether readers will notice it or not. Maybe they don’t notice us (as they shouldn’t, if we’re doing our job well). Regardless, producing the best copy possible is a way of showing respect to our readers and demonstrating that our first priority is making sure they understand what’s going on.
And let’s be real: If we don’t have copy editors to look out for grammar and organization, who will?
This blog will be quiet for the next week or so. I’ll be busy with midterms:
I’ll still be active on Twitter now and again. Thanks, as always, for reading here and there.
The Breakfast of Editing Champions returns to the AEJMC national convention in Denver next month. The breakfast is free and open to anyone who teaches editing, appreciates editing or simply likes to hang around editing professors — and that should be pretty much everyone.
Deborah Gump, who teaches editing at Middle Tennessee State University, is the main organizer of the breakfast, and I’m serving as her co-host. An RSVP is required.
The event’s agenda is simple, yet fundamental to journalism that matters: the future of editing and editing education. Since the beginning of the breakfasts, we’ve invited journalists to help guide our discussion by sharing their views from the trenches. This year, we have:
A highlight of the breakfasts has been the Teaching Idea Exchange, which shares your best teaching ideas and strategies. Like last year, I’m handling the exchange. Share your best teaching idea or tip by sending 200 words or less about it to me at email@example.com. The deadline is Monday, July 26. We’ll call on you to talk about your idea and how and why it works, so be ready to discuss it briefly. We’ll compile the best ones into a handout too.
Oh, one more thing: Once again, we owe our coffee bagels and pastries this year to Rich Holden, executive director of the Dow Jones News Fund. The craft of editing owes much to him, and we do as well.
WANT TO GO?
The Breakfast of Editing Champions will take place on Friday, Aug. 6, at the Sheraton Denver Downtown Hotel. It begins at 8:15 a.m. Bagles and coffee will be provided. To attend, RSVP by e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org by Monday, July 26. We hope to see you there!