It’s the little things

16 Jan

I really enjoy copy editing. In fact, I’m looking to pursue it as a career after I graduate college. Recently, I’ve come across a couple of things that have reminded me why, despite spellcheck, grammar check and similar software, it’s still a good idea to keep a copy editor around.

1) I noticed this on the front page of my university’s website. It’s a story about a professor who maps internet censorship.

What caught my attention in this instance is the hed for this article: Access Denied. There’s nothing wrong with it in and of itself. It plays off of a phrase that ties into the article’s topic and would have been fine in print. Online, however, it doesn’t work for a couple of reasons.

  1. In terms of SEO, no one searching for an article about global internet censorship is going to use this phrase.
  2. It makes me think that my access is being denied to something or that there’s some kind of computer error and the real content can’t load.

Number two is the biggie here. I had to read the hed and subhead two or three times before I finally understood what was going on.  You can’t count on most readers being that patient.

2) I definitely feel for my fellow Big 12 school on this one. This was obviously an error that was simply overlooked before the paper went to print. The mistake in question? The title for a break box accompanying a story about rape and sexual abuse was supposed to read “Who can not give consent.” This ran instead:

Ouch. You really hate to see something like that happen. It’s an error that only a human could catch. Grammatically, nothing is wrong with it. Mistakes like these remind me why, although it sometimes seems excessive, four or five different people look over a page before we send it to print.

3) This next item is computer generated and concerns an issue I’ve seen pop up multiple times. It also brings into play copy editors’ ever-expanding duties – it’s not just about commas and homonyms, folks, but context, layout and general attentiveness as well.  The item? An ad-article combo that appeared on Glenn Beck’s website shortly after the shooting rampage in Tucson that left six dead.

Apparently, the random image generator on Beck’s website paired a photo of the pundit with a gun next to a quote about controlling violence in America. Clearly, this didn’t happen on purpose but the fact remains that it did happen. There’s no way that a computer can be programmed to know that something like this isn’t exactly kosher.  I also recently spied a travel agency ad for trips to Australia in an article about the flooding in Brisbane. Yikes.

I guess, in the end, it sometimes seems like copy editing isn’t as important as it used to be. I disagree. It’s still important, just in new and changing ways. I mean, someone’s got to keep Glenn Beck from looking like a complete failure as a human being. Right?


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