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Under the hood

The Subversive Copy Editor, bless her heart, addresses the issue of whether editors are creative. We know that writers are, bless their hearts, when they aren’t off drinking cocktails with Scott and Zelda or running with the bulls at Pamplona with Hem. We editors just sit quietly at the chimney corner, mumbling to ourselves.

(Of course, I myself am among the writers with the largest audience in Baltimore, larger than the combined audiences of Taylor Branch, Anne Tyler, and the other local luminaries: For more than twenty years I have been writing front-page headlines for The Baltimore Sun, texts read every day by hundreds of thousands of readers. Top that.)

But even if you mistakenly disallow any creativity to editors, you will ultimately have to confess your need for us. You may be a racecar driver, but you will need mechanics. We, the editors, are the people you must turn to when there is something amiss in the works, and we are the ones to lift the hood for a look.

We can fix that annoying rattle, and when you worry why the “CHECK ENGINE” light comes on and won’t go off, we can find the trouble and fix it. We make sure that your brakes work. When you burn out the transmission, we rebuild it. When you smash into something, we do the body work.

And if you really want it to look nice, we’ll detail it for you.

 

 

Posted by John McIntyre at 11:39 AM | | Comments (6)
        

Comments

Yeah, we'll fix cars. I'll even scrub the bugs off the windshield--anything for a buck. It seems to me the conflict comes in when the mechanic starts recommending a different paint color or some new speakers. So I'll get the car running again, but I should remember whose car it is.

'We editors just sit quietly at the chimney corner, mumbling to ourselves.'

It's true! Or we mumble to each other, if there's more than one of us in the room.

Which do you imagine yourself, Click, or Clack?

Curious in Knoxville

I had to restrain myself from bringing up the topic of gas emissions. But then I lost the battle.

I vote for ditching the spelling comptroller. The OED minces no words: "An erroneous spelling of controller, introduced c 1500, and formerly frequent in all senses; still retained in certain official designations, while in others it has been changed to the ordinary spelling."

"For more than twenty years I have been writing front-page headlines for The Baltimore Sun, texts read every day by hundreds of thousands of readers."

I've frequently said, "Copy editors write the part of the paper that EVERYBODY reads."

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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 john.mcintyre@baltsun.com.
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