Tuesday, March 16, 2004

Two Types of Editing

Those of us lucky enough to work on the rim do two main kinds of copy editing.

1.) We copy edit for readers.

2.) We copy edit for ourselves.

The first covers all the "obvious" work we do. Did we spell the name right? Does the story make sense? Does that telephone number connect readers to a dubious psychic rather than the local quilt club?

The second covers the stuff we love to chew over. Did we master this arcane point of grammar? Did we smooth the sentences to absolute perfection? Did we substitute generic names for any trademarks?

Both types of work are important.

1.) We have to serve our readers: That's the basic job of a newspaper.

2.) Us copy editors have to serve ourselves. Sure, we might err on the side of persnickety. Sure, we might infuriate the occasional narrative journalist. But we're practicing a refined craft, and it makes us feel better to know someone knows why "impact" is a lousy verb.

The first type of editing takes priority. If a story has been edited for other copy editors, and not readers, we haven't done our job. Never lose sight of the folks who make this all possible.