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 jemcintyre@gmail.com, 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/.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Save money: Cut back on editing

A correction from The Washington Post:

A Nov. 26 article in the District edition of Local Living incorrectly said a Public Enemy song declared 9/11 a joke. The song refers to 911, the emergency phone number.

From the Morning Call, Allentown, Pennsylvania:

Judge nixes please for man, who's accused of hosting racy underage drinking party, and sneds him to prison for stalking.

From the lead paragraph of a New York Times article:

It is the breakfast hour, the day before Thanksgiving and the lobby is busy with clean-looking families who are up and Adam, ready to set off in their varsity-letter jackets and Rockports for some holiday shopping, maybe a show.

From the Associated Press:

Energy shortages and rationing could be exacerbated by Colombia's decision last week to reduce exports of electricity to Venezuela, Lopez added. Colombia's energy minister, Hernan Martiez sidth douhtha frcd olmba o to sppyig Veezela with 70 to 80 megawatts a day.

Tell me more about how much better it is to get copy from the writer to the reader with “fewer touches.”

24 comments:

  1. Wow. I'm surprised at the New York Times.

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  2. Hey, John- Forgot the http:// on the twitter bit.ly...

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  3. Cheerly, them, teh copee edditer am no need. Wy spin monkey onna ting no potsdam? Annerly savant tens off dolors – another day, another dolor!

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  4. On the same night Hernan sidth douhtha and whatnot, a cutline from AP claimed that a Navy veteran of Pearl Harbor who was planning to return there for the first time since the attack was looking over his "Navy medals of honor." I wonder how many papers that got into...and if any of them capitalized Medal of Honor (which he did not receive).

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  5. I think there's a chance a copy editor was to blame for the Public Enemy error. The only way you would confuse "nine-one-one" with "nine-eleven" is if you've never heard the song. It's unlikely that the person who put the reference in the story would have made that choice knowing ONLY the title and NOTHING else (it doesn't even have a backslash: "911 Is a Joke").

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  6. Oh my gosh. This reads like the weekly drill in my son's 6th grade class. The teacher writes three sentences on the board with intentional errors in spelling, punctuation and word use. The kids write them down and use proofreading marks to correct them. So I can tell Mr. Zimmermann that he doesn't have to make up sentences anymore. He can just get them from the New York Times.

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  7. Patricia the TerseDecember 7, 2009 at 1:17 AM

    My favorite, excepting the bizarre lapse into Hungarian in the Colombian story, is "up and Adam." Brilliant. I assume they were referring to a fireplace mantle, as in "up the Adam."

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  8. This is shocking. The correct phrase, of course, is "up and atom." I expect better from the Times.

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  9. I ran across a particularly painful one this weekend. It described the various tricks a rather insipid band has tried to keep its audience entertained. Apparently, one year, a band member "repelled from the ceiling."

    As we say up here -- UFF DA. (That's Norwegian for "Oy.")

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  10. Here's a winner from the New York Times:

    Correction: December 4, 2009
    An article on Nov. 13 about Sean Bedford, the Georgia Tech offensive lineman who is also an aerospace engineering major, misstated the terms that David Scarborough, a senior research engineer, used in teaching the jet and rocket propulsion class. The terms were "isentropic flow," "stagnation states" and "adiabatic efficiency for the diffuser" -- not "isotropic stagnation state" and "idiomatic deficiency for diffuser."

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  11. I feel sorry for the "maybe a show". It looks lost, poor thing. Unless Adam is a show - the sequel to Hair, perhaps?

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  12. While the Post's cuts to its copy editing ranks are sadly evident to those of us who read the print edition, within the past 12 months they found the money to send a fashion writer to Europe to cover the new fashions and a writer to Santa Fe to cover an opera.

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  13. From Fast Company magazine's daily newsletter: "But it's actually really, good news." Huh?

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  14. This just makes me sad. I was reading The New York Times magazine yesterday and read about someone wearing "peddle pushers." I know they know the difference. And I know this is what happens when the copydesks are cut.

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  15. 12/7

    Hagerstown Herald-Mail:

    Just hours before the Sideling Hill Exhibit Center on Interstate 68 closed for Good Friday, officials worked out a deal to move the center's exhibits to a new museum in Hancock.

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  16. The one thing a reporter can never do is read his own copy cold. Often editors have discussed the story with the reporter, so they can't really read it cold. That leaves copy editors as the only ones who read a story with the same unfamiliarity as the reader. If they can't understand the story, neither will the reader.

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  17. Kitchener Record a couple days ago:
    "...she said in a brief interview before a memorial lunch at the Kitchener Holiday in Sunday afternoon."
    Methinks the author intended to name a hotel chain.

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  18. Copped from Daily Kos:

    "According to a White House press release:

    In advance of his Wednesday meeting with business and environmental leaders at the White House regarding the Copenhagen conference, ... This meeting is closed press."

    Not quite black tie, obviously they meant "clothes pressed."

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  19. Oh, Kitchener Record. They're part of a chain of mid-size dailies that decimated the copy desk last winter (disclosure: I used to work in the chain). SND Award-winning editors/designers were cut and the mistakes have been hilarious.

    And as for the 9/11 vs. 911 - if it was an ignorant copydesk mistake, well that's why desks should be large enough that two or more people are reading each story/page. On a large desk, those errors get caught. Who among us hasn't corrected a colleague's typo and saved the day (or had our errors spotted by other editors)? That's what we're supposed to be there for.

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  20. Patricia the TerseDecember 9, 2009 at 5:51 PM

    Clearly the "Peddle Pushers" writer hasn't met the fashion writer.

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  21. Did they mean to say, "up and at 'em," maybe?

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  22. Copy editors certainly are a necessity! What is really sad, however, is that these writers are so poor at their craft.

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  23. Maybe these editors went to school in the NYC public school system, where teachers aren't allowed to correct writing and inventive spelling is encouraged. Blech!!

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