Friday, February 18, 2011

Adventures in Copy Editing

Back in the day, I was a newspaper copy editor. Grand times were had (minus the times it sucked my creativity dry). There was a plethora of reporter mistakes for me to put in order.

One of the more important parts of that job was my need to think like a 12-year-old boy. Accidental double entendres ran rampant in every story imaginable. I pretty much saw it all. When my coworker and I were reading quietly and one of us suddenly burst out laughing, we always knew an awesome error had been found.

I kept a running list of the worst mistakes. For example:
  • "Finished brooms hung from a display wrack."
  • "Mr. Jones has been grazing near Bone Lake since 1993." [His cows have been grazing, not Mr. Jones]
  • "Wild forest berries were available to the ancient Romans in the Middle Ages."

Those are some of the simpler ones, with one mistake that was easily corrected. Not every sentence was so easy as that. For example:

"The raw vegetable virgin oil processing will probably take off because it is more doable than using used vegetable oils."

Hoo boy. Where do I start: the suggestion that this type of oil can 'take off' like an airplane, the word 'doable' double-meaning, or repetition of the word 'use'? Not to mention the first phrase alone, which suggests the oil is made of virgins...

One of my favorites, though, is still this headline: "Four-year-olds hit show-ring with calves." Does that mean the girls are smacking the show-ring with the lower parts of their legs, or are they lifting up baby cows and throwing them?

They both seem pretty improbable.

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