Five different kinds of editing

I’ve been editing things for a very long time now, and long ago stopped thinking consciously about any of it.

But an upcoming workshop I will be offering at Cape Town’s Bergvliet High School on how to edit your own writing meant that I had to go back to basics and deconstruct a little.
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What it means to be a copy editor

Marooned boat in a drought

The worst drought in living memory? Picture: Luis Paredes,

Copy editors have many things to worry about (think commas). And making sure that language is used with precision is one of those things.

In a recent a television programme, the presenter said that a particular place was experiencing the wettest winter “in living memory”.

Since such declarations about the weather happen often, and because there is, these days, always a hidden sub-text about how the observed phenomenon proves or disproves climate change theory, I started to ponder: what does “living memory” mean exactly?
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A sock draw? Surely not

In a week of processing copy, I spotted this quote from a person responding to a survey, in a Daily Mail story:

‘Then there were other non-essential tasks such as watering plants and sorting out the sock draw which suddenly became urgent priorities ahead of the essential task they really should be concentrating on.’

Thing is, you reorganise your sock drawER, not your sock draw. Looked at in context, it’s possible that the mistake was contained in the original statement from a source mentioned in the story, and somehow slipped past the Mail’s subbing system.

Moral of the story: just because it’s in an email from someone else, doesn’t mean it’s right.

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Main picture: Photo by Nick Page on Unsplash

Journalism ‘legals’: Renee’s golden rules

In my years as a sub-editor on South African newspapers, and as a trainer, I wrote a host of training materials – one of the most used being my one-pager on the legal side of reporting in South Africa.

Here it is. Bear in mind that I am not a lawyer, but I do have decades of experience on the front-line of editing journalism,. When in doubt, ask the next person up in the hierarchy for help! But use this guide as your first line of defence.

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Editors make mistakes, too

I mis-spelt a word on Twitter today – conumdrum, instead of conundrum. Not the end of the world, and in the Twitter flow no one but me noticed (I hope). But it makes me unhappy when I  get things wrong (especially when I do know the right spelling). And that is one of the foundations of editing, I guess: the striving to make things right.