Thursday, October 9, 2003

Copy Editor Code, Part One

What should a newspaper copy editor try to do? What are the basics of the job? Why is this important, anyway?

I know. These questions gnaw at us all. That's why I'll try to answer them. Not all at once, not exhaustively and perhaps not accurately. But the basics are important -- and easily lost in the thicket of style quibbles.

1.) I will be a reader.

It's the most important factor of all. The newspaper begins and ends with the people reading it. A copy editor stands in for the reader at a critical point in the process. We can change things if they don't make sense.

2.) I will strive for accuracy and clarity.

The two must go together. They fight sometimes, but it makes their relationship stronger in the end. The newspaper must be as accurate as it can be. It must put that information across in crystal-clear prose.

3.) I will express my concerns.
Copy editors do their job toward the end of the production process. Their concerns, therefore, can be dismissed in the headlong rush to print. We have to be heard. Not all battles can be won, of course. Not all battles are worth fighting. But we have a job. We must do it.

More of these as I think of them. Suggestions?