John McIntyre, whom James Wolcott calls "the Dave Brubeck of the art and craft of copy editing," writes on language, editing, journalism, and other manifestations of human frailty. Comments welcome. Identifying his errors relieves him of the burden of omniscience. Write to firstname.lastname@example.org, befriend at Facebook, or follow at Twitter: @johnemcintyre. Back 2009-2012 at the original site, http://weblogs.baltimoresun.com/news/mcintyre/blog/ and now at www.baltimoresun.com/news/language-blog/.
Wednesday, November 25, 2009
Only another copy editor would understand
... and yet he wistfully longs for his days on the copy desk.
God, I miss them. What you must understand is that even in the best of times, copy editors fought a daily desperate rear-guard action, clawing their way to some increase in clarity and precision against unforgiving deadlines, obtuse colleagues who never troubled to understand the details of production (or, often, syntax), balky equipment, and asinine directives from on high. Every victory, however minor, was a hard-won triumph to be savored, every defeat a spur to greater effort.
To you, you writer, we were impediments to the full flowering of your “voice.” To you, you civilian, if you had heard of us at all, we were a bunch of nerds, certifiable obsessive-compulsives who cared about things that you would not even notice. To you, you sharp-penciled bean counter, we were, and are, disposable “non-core” staff.
But among ourselves, we were comrades who took to the field on Saint Crispin’s Day, and when we gather to nurse our beers and talk about lost glory, we few, we happy few, will strip our sleeves and show our scars, saying, “These wounds I had on Crispian’s day.”
A pity you weren’t there.