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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