Monday morning copy editing
A thread about copy editors' mistakes has started in Romenesko's Letters section.
It began when journalism prof Elaine Liner said she encouraged students to read the newspaper by having them find 100 mistakes in print.
hen they become obsessed. Sad to say, it's getting easier to find grammar, spelling and punctuation mistakes in print. But students also get credit for finding factual errors, bad arithmetic and lack of attribution. In just a few weeks, most of them have found well over 100 errors for their collections (one young man found 154 mistakes in just one issue of our daily campus paper).Steve Watson of the Buffalo News took issue with the practice, saying "Monday Morning Copy Editing, to borrow an old saw, is like walking onto the battlefield after the fighting's stopped and shooting at the wounded." He said there should be better ways to get students exciting about reading the paper.
Ray Bearfield agrees that the critiques can be over the top but says that does not mean editing standards have not dropped over the years.
Those old-time editors, many of whom were blessed with only a high school diploma and a love of language, didn't make many mistakes. They could argue grammar with an English teacher, and they knew their infinitives from their participles. They made sure that the young editors put in their charge did too. Those that found that system too rigid and demanding became reporters or found work elsewhere.