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A copy editor's haiku

Tell me a story,
if you can, while avoiding
crimes against syntax.

In the intern’s work
commas cluster on the page,
sprinkled like pepper.

The clock moves so fast
and metro copy so slow.
Time for a smoke break.

Adjectives smother
readers struggling to locate
a lone gasping noun.

Thirty-four inches
on education reform --
caffeine’s not enough.

The bureau’s story
matches its budgeted length.
My eyes fill with tears.

Head specs are too tight.
What is a rim rat to do?
Leave out the vowels.

Project took six months.
The copy desk gets two days.
Spell-check and set it.

This story’s first graph
runs for forty-seven words.
Time to turn the page.

We sit at the desk
making woe and misfortune
fodder for headlines.

Deadline is looming
with seven pages still out.
Proofreading’s a frill.

Proud writer inquires,
Don’t you find this poetic?
Shoot me in the head.

In heaven the staff
will prize copy editors
and know each by name.

Posted by John McIntyre at 1:20 PM | | Comments (5)


We feel your anguish.
Your tireless work is (by some)

: )

The desk gets two DAYS?
You work in heaven, my friend
I'm used to two hours

Headline writers can
do haiku in their sleep;
I'm amazed you have time..

Nice. But wouldn't those forty-seven words constitute a GRAF rather than a "graph"?

Oh, the briefs package
How many ways can you say
"Driver killed in wreck"?

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About John McIntyre
John McIntyre, mild-mannered editor for a great metropolitan newspaper, has fussed over writers’ work, to sporadic expressions of gratitude, for thirty years. He is The Sun’s night content production manager and former head of its copy desk. He also teaches editing at Loyola University Maryland. A former president of the American Copy Editors Society, a native of Kentucky, a graduate of Michigan State and Syracuse, and a moderate prescriptivist, he writes about language, journalism, and arbitrarily chosen topics. If you are inspired by a spirit of contradiction, comment on the posts or write to him at
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