or, stuff that I dragged out of my head

Location: Moncton, New Brunswick, Canada

Friday, August 22, 2008


A couple of nights ago I was on the phone with a journalist friend of mine; she'd called me to wish me a (belated) Happy Birthday, and in the course of the conversation, we ended up bemoaning, as I so often do on this blog, the complete lack of copy-editing in every manifestation of the media. "The writer just runs it through the spellchecker and it gets printed!" I said, and she replied, speaking from experience, "Most of them don't even use the spellchecker!"

Well, at Slate they seem to spellcheck, but that's apparently as far as it ever goes. Just look at this sentence from a recent piece about the 1904 Olympics:

The parade is more than a quadrennial check-in on sociopolitical changes (welcome, Montenegro! Serbia and Montenegro, we hardly new ye) and fashion changes (nice to have you back, newsboy cap!), it is perhaps the most powerful symbol of actual progress the Olympics has to offer.

"New" instead of "knew". Even the most slovenly copy editor (a people not known for their sloppiness) would have caught and corrected that, because a writer is supposed to make readers think, "That's interesting!", and a copy editor is supposed to keep people from thinking, "That's not right!"

Seriously. How much would it cost to hire someone whose sole job is to make sure that such things don't happen? Wouldn't it be worth it?


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