World Wide Web changing the art of Copy Editing

This week we need to find five examples of editing mistakes. The question posed in my Copy Editing class was “How would we know if it’s an editing mistake or a writing mistake?” The answer given was “It was published”. Back in the day you couldn’t get anything published without having an editor look it over. Now a days we have the internet! You can post anything you want in a matter of minutes with all the spelling, grammatical, or other errors for everyone to see. So I asked the internet how it has effected the world of copy editing and it gave me Angela Avery-Ahlijian’s essay “Copy Editing in the Digital Age: How Technology Has Changed Copy Editing”. 1 She says that a threat to the “art” of copy editing is that there are now programs that will electronically review your writing and spit it out with spelling errors, tense mistakes and so forth, marked for revision. She quotes Neil Holdway with saying that in the news the transition from paper to web is threatening good editing. I myself have caught errors when reading the news on my HuffPost or BBC app on my phone. Holdway attributes sloppy web editing to the fact that deadlines have changed. Now we expect the news cycle to never end, to always be updating. Before when journalists submitted their work every night there was a time to thoroughly edit articles. That traditional new cycle no longer exists.

Included in Avery-Ahlijian’s thesis is the computerization of the paste-up of a newspaper. Web news editors now have to be versed in “search-engine optimization” so the articles posted get more hits when key words are typed in. These, as well as other new tasks, have come under a copy editors job description since the dawn of the tech age. With new technologies some things required by editors have become easier (fact checking being one).

Going back to the assignment posed in class to find editing mistakes. The age of web based news and articles does make it easier to skip an editor all together which does result in a lot of mistakes. It also makes correcting these mistakes a lot easier. While it’s true that once it’s on the web it’s there forever news outlets can post retractions or edited articles much quicker than with newspapers.

Jasmine Aloma points out that digital editing in film has helped the industry in a very similar way. She says “Back in the times of physical film being used in the process of film post production, one error during the splicing process could not be undone, meaning it was damaged, leaving less oppotunity for mistakes.”2 (notice the spelling error? I copy and pasted that quote from her internet article).

So it’s obvious that the world of editing has changed a lot since the popularization of the internet and the expansion of its uses. The basic idea and need for a copy editor has not changed and as an art should not be lost.



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