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Lancing and draining

“You’re draining the life out of our stories.”

The plaintive cry, or an equivalent about “greying” the stories, typically comes when a copy editor has excised something dear to a writer’s heart. Unfortunately, writers, like parents, sometimes bestow immoderate affection on their homlier productions. Judge for yourself from this sampling of authorial treasures singled out for revision or removal by those cold-eyed, literal-minded, rule-bound, tone-deaf bastards on the copy desk:

* For the 1 million to 1.5 million Americans who test positive for the human immunodeficiency virus, which destroys the body’s defense against disease, living is all-important.

* Spring has sprung and besides trying to cope with the pollen attacking your sinuses, the staff at Grassroots Crisis Intervention Center Inc. wants you to be aware of another usual spring ritual: suicides.

* The late fall sunrise is a frosty Popsicle that pokes with sadistic glee at the previous evening's enthusiasms.

* It was the second consecutive controlling performance for Loyola, a team that had been exciting in the manner of a blind grab into the toilet –– you never knew what you’re going to get.

* For any young company, capital is like mother’s milk, the sustenance needed for growth. A captive audience of attentive financiers offered hope for a long, cool drink.

* When doody calls on the picturesque shoreline, the city is no longer answering. The city’s “Mutt Mitts” program, which provided dog walkers with free shoebox-size plastic bags to clean up after their animals since 1999, has been scrapped because of budget cuts.

* One day James Larrimore had two arms, and the next day he only had one. In between was a horrible accident involving a mulching machine.

Lord, forgive us dull-witted copy editors for our offenses against Art.

Posted by John McIntyre at 12:49 PM | | Comments (6)


Nuh uh. Had these authors been drinking, or are you not giving your writers enough paid vacation? ;-)

Egads. There should be a Bulwery-Lytton prize for journalism.

I kind of like the doody one; the others obviously needed to be killed.

People occasionally ask me why professional reporters need editors. I tell them gently, "You obviously have no idea how professional reporters actually write."

Thanks for providing such wonderful examples. Particularly the sadistic Popsicle.

Hmmm. I picture sort of a duct-tape, cardboard and wire Borg haunting the streets of whatever neighborhood is involved here:

* One day James Larrimore had two arms, and the next day he only had one. In between was a horrible accident involving a mulching machine.

C'mon, the doody comment was way too good to get the axe. It wasn't particularly convoluted, and it actually made sense (can't say the same for the popsicle metaphor).

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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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