Copy editing is an essential skill

October 24, 2008

I’ve always found it odd that in an industry where copy jobs are so often considered junior or entry-level – implying that you have to go through them to get to senior jobs – it’s more common than it should be for senior editors to have forgotten how to spell. Whether it’s laziness or haziness I’m not sure, but I’m beyond appreciative for the hard-working copy editors and fact checkers who make the magazines we read so readable.

This is one area where the web lags behind. We’re understaffed, and it’s a luxury for content to go past two pairs of eyes before it goes live. We can fix errors quickly, certainly (I love the “report typo” link on cbc.ca), but web copy rarely gets massaged to the degree that print copy does.

It’s a shame, but it’s a reality of our current industry. And this is why it’s so essential that web editors be copy editors, too. It reflects poorly on the magazine for the website to have badly edited content up. Ideally, it would all go through a copy editor. Realistically, the web editor has to perform both jobs.

I took copy editing at Ryerson from Bernadette Kuncevicius (it’s a wonderful class and she’s a wonderful teacher, you should take it too) and the most important lesson she taught us was that a copy editor’s job isn’t to know every rule by heart: it’s to question everything and look it up. At the very least, make sure your web editor has a copy of the dictionary and style guide so they can do so. Even better, if they need it, send them to a refresher course – your website will be all the better for it.

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One Response to “Copy editing is an essential skill”

  1. Meg Campbell Says:

    I took that course with Bernadette too, and I loved it. It’s funny, though, that you mention copy editing being an entry-level position. I’ve seen job postings asking for 5 or even 7+ years experience.

    Being a fan of grammar and punctuation, and easy-to-read copy, I shudder at the number of errors on some blogs. Hopefully one day we’ll start seeing publications, especially the big ones, hiring copy editors specifically for online work.


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