Tuesday, January 5, 2010

What Copy Editors Know

Highlights from an article I put together years ago, when I was part of the crack copy-editing team at San Francisco Focus ...
  • "Whenever writers say, 'Not to quibble,' they're about to quibble."
  • "There's no comma in 'Louie Louie,' no period in Dr Pepper, and no apostrophe in Grants Pass. There should be but there isn't."
  • "'Not to mention' is a mention."
  • "It's okay to end a sentence with a preposition. Always has been. I don't care what English teacher told you. That's the sort of bogus rule up with which I will not put."
  • "The word very is supposed to be an intensifier, but it's used so much that most statements are stronger without it."
  • "Isn't it weird how many exceptions there are to the rule: i before e except after c?"
  • "Never begin a story with 'Yes, Virginia,' 'According to Webster's,' or 'What do ____, _____, and _____ have in common?'"
  • "Most stories can be improved if you shorten them by about a third."
  • "I believe it was Rene J. Cappon, the veteran Associated Press editor, who said: 'Call a spade a spade and you evoke a picture. Call it an agricultural implement and you might be talking about a plow, a rake, or an air-conditioned tractor."
  • "Quotes are doctored all the time in the name of clarity and grammar. Q&A interviews look like transcripts, but they're not. You wouldn't want to read them if they were."
  • "Never use an exclamation point!"

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