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Copy desk blues

Some years back Alex Cruden of the Detroit Free Press wrote some copy editor blues songs, which were performed at the closing ceremonies of one of the ACES national conferences.

In that spirit, I offer the first stanza of a new one: “30 minutes late (and 20 lines long).” Based on a real-life experience. Feel free to add your own verses.

I’ve been sittin’ on the copy desk all the livelong day,

Sittin’ on the copy desk, editin’ to get my pay,

Lookin’ at that syntax, puzzlin’ where it got all wrong,

But it’s 30 minutes late, and the story’s runnin’ 20 lines long.



Posted by John McIntyre at 8:33 AM | | Comments (2)


I used to live the high life back in the edit golden age

Had all the room I wanted to fit the words upon the page

But now the buyin' public got no time to sit and read

So the boss, he's after me to cut that text with blazin' speed

The lede is kinda clunky and the verb is buried deep

But editors get cranky when they're goin' on no sleep

And don'tcha know that columnist is one I'd never hire

He throws a fit when I point out his misplaced modifier

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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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