Copy Editing

by Jason Preston on July 14, 2009

Copy editing is now a choice. As a reader pointed out the other day, TMZ doesn’t often bother with grammar; the reader gets the point.

It used to be that you just needed copy editors, because typos were embarrassing. But now typos are stylistic. Blogging mogul Jason Calacanis of Weblogs, Inc. (and now Mahalo) once pointed out that he doesn’t fix typos on his blog posts because it helps convey the immediacy of his thoughts.

Once again the internet surfaces niches where mass audiences once ruled. There’s a subset of people who want clean copy, and there’s a subset of people who don’t care, and there’s a subset of people who find clean copy pretentious.

Which audience do you want?

{ 2 trackbacks }

Cool Links #50: It’s All Golden « TEACH J: For Teachers of Journalism And Media
07.20.09 at 12:42 pm
Will copy editing be lost online? « Publishing to the Web
07.23.09 at 6:30 pm


1 Yu Yu 07.14.09 at 12:01 pm

I edit as a habit, it’s not pretentious. sometimes it’s a job. It helps maintain uniformity in a publication, a sense of style. People tend to forgive mistakes in a blogpost or on twitter. For a newspaper it’s unforgivable. I live in India and papers here are full of errors. Sometimes sentences don’t make sense. That’s when you really need to proof read and edit. If Jason Calacanis doesn’t want to edit his blog, that’s his business. But poorly edited articles on the Telegraph, or Times of India (when they have so little original content to begin with) is just unforgivable.

2 jope 07.14.09 at 12:35 pm

If the need for immediacy demands that content be posted without first being proofread, I do think the raw version should at least be swapped for a proofed version later as time permits. To err is human, but to leave uncorrected is just plain sloppy.

3 Emily G 07.14.09 at 4:58 pm

Uh, I find it hard to see how you got from “Two places don’t bother to do A” to “Therefore, there is a segment of the population that finds A pretentious.”

4 smfordo 07.14.09 at 5:47 pm

I can understand the “immediacy” of thought on some breaking news posts, and the lack of editing because of it. But if every post is marked by such inattention to basic communication skills employed by editing, then I would really start to question the soundness of such thoughts in the first place. Quick thinking doesn’t have to be sloppy communication.

5 Benjamin Lukoff 07.14.09 at 7:22 pm

Copyediting seems to have become a choice a while back. I don’t know. I want clean copy. I don’t see how anyone can find it pretentious — one thing about clean copy is you shouldn’t notice it, and one thing that’s bad about typo-ridden copy is your eye gets stuck on all the mistakes. Then again, if you don’t know it’s a mistake…

Editors, though, also check facts (or they used to) and links (or they should). Hopefully people aren’t going to adopt the position that a post can be full of errors and bad links, otherwise it really is the end.

6 jeanneleez 07.14.09 at 7:31 pm

Seriously, how long does it take to edit a blog post? To me, Calacanis is full of sh*t, and just lazy. Typos and poor grammar cheapen all bloggers and make us all look unprofessional. Spend the extra five minutes.

7 Curt M. 07.14.09 at 9:06 pm

One thing copy editors did in print was make things fit. That, of course, isn’t as necessary online.

I like clean copy. To me it says that you know what you’re doing, that you’re an adult, and it makes me more likely to trust the accuracy of the content. Good writers should care about spelling and grammar. The “immediacy of his thoughts” idea strikes me as pretentious and juvenile. Nobody’s thoughts are that immediate. Sounds more like laziness to me.

Lukoff is right: Editors also check facts and links. Good copy editors can prevent you from being sued. That, even more than spelling and grammar, is a good reason to have good editing.

8 Tyler Hurst 07.15.09 at 10:15 am

I love that your posts seem like a young Seth Godin wrote them. Thanks for being on point, direct and readable.

9 JohnB 07.22.09 at 2:57 am

To err is human, but to leave uncorrected is just plain sloppy

Well said, @jope. I’ve noticed this annoying trend among top bloggers.

I do expect that the more professional writers and editors adopt blogging, the more we’ll see copy editors in this space.

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