Wednesday, October 29, 2003

How Many Reads?

A horrid question for a young copy editor. How many times should I go through this story? When will it be ready?

I've answered the question several ways. In school, professors, etc. taught the five-step editing method. I don't recall the steps, but I recall each involved reading the story a separate time.

Such a methodical approach doesn't translate perfectly to the 8-hour shift. An editor has more time for some things, less time for others. And the newspaper itself determines the volume of work.

My general approach:

1.) A quick skim through to determine length and form. I see if subheds have already been added, where it jumps, stiff like that.

2.) A paragraph-by-paragraph slog. I try to fix the most fixable issues. I smooth sentences, check work choice and so on.

3.) I take a stab at the headline and other display type. I make calls, if needed, about bigger questions in the text.

4.) I check through the story again, making sure my changes flow. An ideal time to spot check for other errors and do a spell check.

5.) I proofread my display type.

Just the basics there. Depending on time, it helps to read through the story carefully between steps 1 and 2, not touching a word. It also helps to read through the story carefully after step 4.

Quick restatement: How many times do I read the story?

1.) The bare minimum: Twice. One to edit and two to check your changes.

2.) The maximum: As many times as you have time for.