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Why not the best?

Martha Brockenbrough, the presiding spirit behind National Grammar Day last March 4, has a book, Things That Make Us [Sic], coming out from St. Martin’s Press in October. Of that, more later.

As part of the campaign around publication of the book, she is setting up a contest to honor the best copy editor in the United States.* She explains: “The contest is in memory of my friend Steve Higgins, who worked as a copy editor at Dow Jones until his death last year of a brain tumor. Ten percent of my royalties will support The Brain Tumor Society in his memory. I also wanted to do something nice for copy editors, so the winner will receive an Amazon Kindle.”

Praiseworthy as it is, I would find it difficult to settle on a nominee. There are the people mentioned on my blogroll, for example. Among them is Bill Walsh of The Washington Post, veteran copy editor, seasoned blogger, author of two highly useful books on editing. Or Merrill Perlman, who recently took a buyout from The New York Times, where, as director of the copy desk, she upheld the paper’s high standards. Or Missy Prebula, whom I hired for The Sun and whom The Times lured away. Or the scores of other copy editors I have worked alongside in 22 years at The Sun. Pam Robinson, the first president of the American Copy Editors Society, has done as much for the craft as anyone living, and Hank Glamann, the co-founder, has fought the good fight for years. Andy Faith, my mentor, colleague and friend, who has just retired from The Sun, spent years building up the copy desk. Have you seen David Sullivan’s incisive comments on the business at That’s the Press, Baby? If you’ve had the good fortune to attend one of Kathy Schenck’s workshops on skeptical editing, you know how fortunate the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel is to have her on the staff.

No, it is an embarrassment of riches. No, it is artificial and arbitrary to think of naming the best.

So here’s what I suggest. Start sending Martha Brockenbrough nominees. If you write or edit, you know copy editors. You know people who are smart, knowledgeable and sensible. You know people who are devoted to this obscure craft in the face of the world’s ignorance and indifference. You know people who labor every day to make the work clearer, cleaner, more accurate. Flood Martha Brockenbrough with their names. Make it impossible for her to decide on the best in this multitude.


* For information on the contest, go to and click the “contest” button.



Posted by John McIntyre at 12:32 AM | | Comments (1)


Apparently the first challenge of the contest is to download the entry form. . .the link is bad.

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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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