From PowerPoints to cover letters, correct grammar and spelling are the lowest common denominators when it comes to mastery of the English language. Good copyediting skills are critical to any organization or writing endeavor.
We were reminded about the value of copyediting this week after Mitt Romney’s team released an iPhone app that spelled “America” as ‘Amercia.’ One of the unspoken rules of running for President is being able to correctly spell the country you’re trying to run. While I’m confident that Mitt didn’t write this app himself, it goes to show how effective copyediting can make a difference between a strong pro-candidate tool and a small PR crisis.
With this in mind, I asked The Hit Board’s resident copy editor, Kathy Sampey, to talk about some strategies and tips when they copyedit press releases, bylines, and even this blog post.
How did you learn to effectively copy edit? Was it from class, work, or just something you were always able to handle?
Kathy Sampey: I’m not a “copy editor” per se. It’s a very specific skill, and people do it professionally. But yes, I first learned copyediting symbols in a college journalism class and became better at editing in general from working at the Associated Press.
What process goes into your copyediting? Is it on the screen, on paper, do you need private space and silence?
KS: First I give a piece of copy a read-through on screen but have discovered that printing something out to proofread and edit is far more effective. I catch a lot more to correct. When I print something out, I need to go to a quieter space to concentrate.
In the instance of Romney’s “Amercia” incident, how do you avoid easy pitfalls such as misspelling and incorrect word usage?
KS: Everyone needs an editor. Everyone. So I would recommend always having a second or even a third pair of eyes proofread a piece of copy and by all means, print it out for people to review it.
When you do make an error and it’s published, how do correct it?
KS: In the Internet age, correcting something is easy and quick. Obviously it’s much harder in
Any good stories around errors?
KS: Yes, but I’m not sharing.
Are there any tips you could share to aspiring copy editors out there?
KS: That would be best answered by professional copy editors but it’s good to at least be familiar with AP style.
Thanks to Kathy for their contributions. Remember – always, always, always have a second pair of eyes review your work before having it post.