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/.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Edit twice, publish once

Back when I used to be somebody, spreading fear and terror while winning glory and wealth as the head of a newspaper copy desk, I harangued people about the importance of editing. They didn’t listen then, either.

But if you need persuasion, consider this example.

Today the Web site Inside Higher Ed reports the embarrassing developments with the sixth edition of the Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association, which is used by professionals and students as the guidebook for their papers. The corrections that have come out since the first printing include “four pages of ‘nonsignificant typographical errors’ and five pages correcting errors in content and problems with sample papers” (emphasis added).

The APA is bringing out a corrected second printing of the manual but is making buyers of the defective first printing pay for the corrected version, which looks churlish.

Addressing the error-riddled edition, Mary Lynn Skutley, editorial director for APA books, explained that the manual was “very complicated to put together.” Indeed. So are newspapers, and magazines, and Web sites, and other books. Complicated, and liable to contain errors.

That is why you might want to engage a competent copy editor for your project before publication, and allow him or her the time and resources to get the job done right the first time.