Wednesday, December 06, 2006

I Am a Recovering Copy Editor

There are many wonderful things about being a copy editor at a metro daily newspaper. There were many things I loved about editing The Modesto Bee and The Albuquerque Journal.

However, once you start seeing the world as a series of mistakes, you cannot turn that off (ironically, I am almost totally blind tou errurs en mie ohn wurk).

When you are a copy editor, you learn little esoteric rules that no one else knows. And you own those rules. You can quote The Associated Press Stylebook verbatim. You know the difference between a "back yard" (noun) and "backyard" (adjective).

I can clearly recall standing in the middle of the Journal newsroom arguing with the state editor. His reporter called them "buffalo." Everyone calls them buffalo. Except they're not. They're bison. I lost that one. I was right. But I still lost.

I still cringe every time people call a "lectern" a "podium." And they call it a podium every time. You stand on a podium, people. Stay with me here.

One of my little pet peeve rules is "under way." Officially, AP says:

under way Two words in virtually all uses: The project is under way. The naval maneuvers are under way.

One word only when used as an adjective before a noun in a nautical sense: an underway flotilla.

Of course, no one ever uses underway in that second sense, especially in New Mexico. So I erroniously remembered the rule as one word normally and two words in a nautical sense.

Then yesterday I was reading, and I came across the story about pulling the U.S.S. Intrepid out of the mud in New York City. And the headline was, "Intrepid freed from mud, under way."

I almost had a heart attack, as I knew this was wrong. But then I pulled out my Stylebook, and I was wrong. And I hate being wrong.

Yes. I do need medication.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

It bothers a certain Ad Agency in Columbus (Dublin specifically) that A.P. standards dictate that certain cities can be written without the state while others require the mention of the state.

Why is this agency located in Columbus, Ohio while some agencies are just in Chicago?

That's why we strive to take the comma off.

2:50 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

You need more than medication.

2:54 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

good grief!

3:00 PM  
Blogger H. said...

As a nonnative (or is it non-native? or is it both?) speaker, I am constantly questioning my usage (especially, when it comes to comma usage). How would I go about improving myself? Or am I destined to wander the earth writing bad sentences? Save my soul. Help! I hate being wrong, too. Worse, I hate being wrong and not knowing it.

5:23 PM  
Blogger Sam said...

I don't have my dictionary here. My guess is non-native.

Commas are the devil. When I took fresman composition, the instructor jumped all over me about commas. She made me write down the rule for every comma I used thereafter (from the handbook we used in the class). I am pretty handy with commas now.

8:36 PM  
Blogger Sam said...

Because Columbus, Ohio, is the biggest city you never hear about.

In reality, it's because every state has a Columbus.

8:37 PM  

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