Wanted: Copyediting & Editing Services
So your life’s dream is to work for a big newspaper or magazine in New York City. Have you thought about copyediting? Here’s some useful tips:
1. Keep it tight and short. Get rid of words and phrases that don’t provide important elements of the story. If you are a long winded talker that sucks the life out of people, then most likely you write that way too, so this is not the job for you. Remember to keep the story nice and tight, like Richard Gere’s buns circa 1985.
2. You only need to say it once. Remove repetition. Remove repetition. Remove repetition. If you are prone to constantly repeating yourself, you will not become your editor’s favorite copyeditor.
3. So you are including dialogue or quotes in your article. If the speakers have been established, there is no need to use “he said” or “she said,” over and over and over. This is called repetitive attribution. It’s annoying, visually unappealing, and your reader will lose interest, and want to kill you.
4. “John Pointer Smith skipped gracefully down the street, as if he had not a care in the world, stopping only to smell the fragrant roses along the way, before falling into a deep sleep due to his narcoleptic condition, and then sleepwalked out into traffic, like a zoned-out zombie, and was crushed instantly by a magenta and yellow charter bus.” Yikes! Cut this down! Too many words and too many metaphors. Try instead, “John Pointer Smith was struck by an oncoming charter bus.” Just the facts ma’am. Just the facts.
5. Take the Evelyn Wood Speed Reading Dynamics course so you can learn how to read the story like the Road Runner. Not possible? Then at least learn how to scan a story so you can the gist of it quickly. When your editor is clamoring for you to hand in your piece, this tool will come in very handy. Plus, all your friends will be amazed with your ability to move your eyeballs back and forth like a typewriter. Bonus!
6. Make sure you read the story in its entirety so you understand important points before you begin to shorten it. Don’t eliminate points for the sake of brevity, before you’ve even had a chance to let it sink into your brain and know what the reporter intended.
7. It was like watching paint dry. He slept like a baby. The grass is always greener on the other side. Sound too familiar? That’s because we’ve all “been there done that,” with these worn out phrases. Be an original “straight shooter,” by sticking to the facts, and avoid these overused clichés.
8. Know your audience. Make sure you use language atypical for the region. In NY you might say, “Give me a coke,” but in Michigan, you would ask for “pop.” If you ask for a “hero,” in Minnesota, you may get pointed to a fire station, but in NY, you would receive a large sandwich. Don’t mix and match regional phrases.
9. Know your sources. Do not quote someone if you don’t have his or her permission, and can back it up. The last thing you want is to provide a situation for you publication to be sued. You’ll most likely be fired, and never work in this town again!
10. Make sure the five W’s are covered: who, what, where, why, and when. If one of the W’s is gone missing, especially in a newspaper article, you must immediately put out an APB to retrieve it and get it into the article.
11. Jot down key words as you read through the story. This helps to pin point what’s really going on, and also highlight words that would make an effective headline. So keep that notepad right by your side.
12. So you aren’t a super whiz at math—use a calculator, or math guide to make sure figures all add up. No one likes to see 2 + 2 = 7 in an article.
13. Know when to use your “CQ,” which does not stand for “chick quote,” but is a mark that indicates an unusual spelling has been double-checked. Everyone will be glad you did.
14. Don’t pretend like you are not geographically challenged when you really are. Check a map when describing a site or route. And if it really seems outrageous, go and check out the location for yourself.
15. Use of superlatives is the equivalent to stealing from an old lady. Well, not exactly, but if you see one in a story—words like best, worst, biggest, smartest—triple check that they it is really true because most of the times it is not.
16. Never make it someone else’s job to make the story perfect—double check spelling, grammar, punctuation, facts, phone numbers (always dial that number to make sure it’s real!) and so and so on. If you rely on someone other than yourself to do the job well, you will fail miserably, and never be promoted to editor-in-chief.
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