Copy-Editing for the Web

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A presentation given at MagNet 2010 with Jaclyn Law


<ul><li> 1. Quick Copy-Editing for the Web <ul><li>Jaclyn Law and Kat Tancock </li></ul></li></ul> <p> 2. 2 Why copy edit? Its your last line of defenseagainst errors like these. 3. 3 Diana, Princess of 4. 4 Due to a typographical error, a previous version of this article said that the amount of losses fromMondays market collapse was $1,300 trillion.The correct amount is $1.3 trillion. Wall Street Journals 5. 4 Source: 6. 4 Source: 7. 7 From a student newspaper at Brandeis University: The original article provided the incorrect locationof New York Universitys new institution.It is in Abu Dhabi, not Abu Ghraib.Source: 8. 8 From a review of a cosmetic-dentistry clinic: Patients can leave up to eight shades whiterafter one sitting. 9. 10. Two key rules for editing your site </p> <ul><li>Be consistent </li></ul> <ul><li>Be organized </li></ul> <p> 11. Develop your skills </p> <ul><li>Know your own errors and double-check them </li></ul> <ul><li>Take a class if you can </li></ul> <ul><li>Try to give yourself at least a day to proofread </li></ul> <ul><li>Slow down and really look </li></ul> <p> 12. What is copy editing? </p> <ul><li>Editing copy for grammar, punctuation, spelling and usage to make it clean, clear, concise and consistent </li></ul> <ul><li>Dealing with word repetition, redundancy, clichs, jargon, lack of logic, offensive or outdated language, etc. </li></ul> <ul><li>Ensuring copy works with the layout </li></ul> <p>12 13. Why you need to copy edit </p> <ul><li>Errors confuse and annoy readers. They also reflect poorly on your publication and your brand.</li></ul> <ul><li>Copy editing elevates your articles. </li></ul> <ul><li>You cant rely on spell-checkers. </li></ul> <p>13 14. Copy editing tips </p> <ul><li>Allow yourself plenty of time and space. </li></ul> <ul><li>Invest in good reference books. </li></ul> <ul><li>Youll catch more errors on paper. </li></ul> <ul><li>Some editors read twice first for meaning, second time to make changes. </li></ul> <ul><li>Some editors read with a ruler. </li></ul> <p>15 15. Repurposing from print </p> <ul><li>If cutting, double-check attributions </li></ul> <ul><li>Watch for "on page x," "in the chart above" </li></ul> <ul><li>Check for info in captions, sidebars, etc. </li></ul> <ul><li>Watch for line breaks, end marks, capitalization/drop caps, bullets </li></ul> <ul><li>Remove/rework time references and seasonal references </li></ul> <p> 16. How long should content stay up? </p> <ul><li>Edit for forever </li></ul> <ul><li>Include a publication date </li></ul> <ul><li>If necessary, program an offline date with your CMS </li></ul> <ul><li>Butmake sure all URLs go somewhere (even if it's a redirect) </li></ul> <p> 17. </p> <ul><li>Know when to back off. Sometimes, preserving personality and colour is more important than perfect grammar. </li></ul> <ul><li>Have a reason for making changes. Dont change something just because thats howyouwould write it. </li></ul> <ul><li>Dont worry nobody knows everything about grammar and punctuation. The key is knowing where to look up the answers. </li></ul> <p>17 18. Web editorial process </p> <ul><li>Check each other's work. </li></ul> <ul><li>Get colleagues' help when you can. </li></ul> <ul><li>Never take off your copy editor's hat. </li></ul> <ul><li>Use spell-check (but don't stop there). </li></ul> <ul><li>Watch for Canadian spelling. </li></ul> <ul><li>Double-check everything you typed into the CMS. </li></ul> <p> 19. Make use of the web </p> <ul><li>Link out to sources (e.g., Health Canada) </li></ul> <ul><li>Check for dead links ( </li></ul> <ul><li>Google sources' names to double-check spelling (and link to them) </li></ul> <p> 20. Dealing with errors </p> <ul><li>"Report typo" </li></ul> <ul><li>Strikethroughs </li></ul> <ul><li>Updates at end of article/post </li></ul> <ul><li>Date your content and identify source </li></ul> <ul><li>Don't make major changes without identifying them to readers </li></ul> <ul><li>Follow up on comments </li></ul> <p> 21. Example: 22. Example: 23. Example: "Updated to add:" 24. Example: Note strikethrough 25. Top 6 things that bug your readers </p> <ul><li>Lack of subject-verb agreement </li></ul> <ul><li>Sentence fragments </li></ul> <ul><li>Dangling modifiers </li></ul> <ul><li>Comma splices </li></ul> <ul><li>Faulty parallelism </li></ul> <ul><li>Poorly constructed lists </li></ul> <ul><li>Vague pronouns </li></ul> <p> 26. 1. Lack of subject-verb agreement </p> <ul><li>Singular subjects take singular verbs; plural subjects take plural verbs. </li></ul> <ul><li>Avoid choosing the wrong word as the sentence subject e.g., The designers collection of shoes were very stylish. (The subject is the collection.) </li></ul> <ul><li>Treat compound subjects (e.g., Sugar and butter) as separate items (Sugar and butter are tasty.) </li></ul> <ul><li>Some plural words are mistakenly treated as singular (data, media, phenomena). </li></ul> <p>25 27. Subject-verb agreement contd </p> <ul><li>Some terms get a singular verb even if they sound plural e.g., Two weeks is the typical incubation period. </li></ul> <ul><li>Collective nouns (e.g., team, board, group) are single units, so they take singular verbs, except in situations like this one: The committee are debating the budget. (A single unit cant debate itself.) </li></ul> <p>26 28. </p> <ul><li>Two subjects joined by nor or or take a singular verb if both subjects are singular e.g., Neither Elaine nor Jerry remembers the date of Kramers birthday. </li></ul> <ul><li>Two subjects joined by nor or or take a plural verb if the subject closest to the verb is plural, or if both subjects are plural e.g., At our charity events, neither the singer nor the back-up dancers receive payment. </li></ul> <p>Subject-verb agreement contd 27 29. </p> <ul><li>Some words always take a singular verb e.g., anybody, anyone, each, either, neither, every, everybody, everyone, nobody, somebody. (Refer toCanadian Press Stylebook .)</li></ul> <p>Subject-verb agreement contd 28 30. 2. Sentence fragments </p> <ul><li>If your sentence is missing a subject or a verb, its a fragment e.g., The neighbours poodle was barking again. Which she couldnt stand. </li></ul> <ul><li>Its OK to use sentence fragments once in a while for effect, or for captions and blurbs where a full sentence isnt needed.</li></ul> <p>29 Write incomplete sentences occasionally. Like this. To make an idea easier to absorb. For a change of pace.-CP Stylebook 31. 3. Dangling modifiers </p> <ul><li>Amodifieris a descriptive word or phrase that limits or quantifies the meanings of other parts of a sentence.</li></ul> <ul><li>Dangling modifiersare words or phrases joined to the wrong words in a sentence.</li></ul> <ul><li>Dangling modifiers are a serious grammar crime! </li></ul> <p>30 32. Dangling modifiers contd </p> <ul><li> Strolling around Torontos trendy Yorkville neighbourhood, a pair of suede bootsstopped me in my tracks. </li></ul> <ul><li>CORRECT:As I strolled around Torontos trendy Yorkville neighbourhood, a pair of suede boots stopped me in my tracks. </li></ul> <p>31 33. </p> <ul><li>Lush and green, Indiana Jones plunged into the rainforest. </li></ul> <ul><li>CORRECT:Indiana Jones plunged into the lush, green rainforest.</li></ul> <p>Dangling modifiers contd 32 34. </p> <ul><li>Roasted to perfection, my husband doused the ribs with barbecue sauce. </li></ul> <ul><li>CORRECT: </li></ul> <ul><li>My husband doused the ribs, roasted to perfection, with barbecue sauce. </li></ul> <ul><li>JUST DONT DO IT! </li></ul> <p>Dangling modifiers contd 33 35. 4. Comma splices </p> <ul><li>First, a quick review </li></ul> <ul><li>Anindependent clauseis a group of words that has a subject-verb combination and expresses a complete thought e.g., Buffy killed the vampire. </li></ul> <ul><li>Acoordinating conjunctionis a word (e.g., and, but, or, nor) that joins two or more elements of equal rank, e.g., black or white, poor but happy, love and hate. </li></ul> <p>34 36. Comma splices contd </p> <ul><li>Acomma spliceis the use of a comma to join (splice) two independent clauses in a sentence, where the clauses are not connected by a coordinating conjunction. </li></ul> <p>35 37. Comma splices contd </p> <ul><li>She was my mentor, I learneda lot from her.</li></ul> <ul><li>You can fix this by separating the clauses with a period or a semicolon, or by joining the clauses with a coordinating conjunction.</li></ul> <p>36 38. </p> <ul><li>WRONG:She was my mentor, I learned a lot from her.</li></ul> <ul><li> She was my mentor. I learned a lot from her.</li></ul> <ul><li> She was my mentor; I learned a lot from her. </li></ul> <ul><li> She was my mentor, and I learned a lot from her. </li></ul> <p>Comma splices contd 37 39. </p> <ul><li>Its OK to use a comma splice </li></ul> <ul><li>when the independent clauses are short, and especially if the subject is the same:I came, I saw, I conquered. </li></ul> <ul><li>when short independent clauses express contrast: He wanted a house, she wanted a condo or Some like it hot, some like it cold. </li></ul> <p>Comma splices contd 38 40. 5. Faulty parallelism </p> <ul><li>Keep the structure of phrases and clauses in a series or sentence parallel.</li></ul> <ul><li>Once a parallel structure has been started, readers expect it to continue; the sentence feels awkward if it doesnt.</li></ul> <p>39 41. Faulty parallelism contd </p> <ul><li>6He put on the dress shirt, tie, the pants and shoes.</li></ul> <ul><li>He put on the dress shirt, tie, pants and shoes. </li></ul> <ul><li>He put on the dress shirt, the tie, the pants and the shoes. </li></ul> <p>40 42. </p> <ul><li>Avoid mixing verb forms within one sentence.</li></ul> <ul><li>6I like reading magazines and to write stories too.</li></ul> <ul><li>I like reading magazines and writing stories too. </li></ul> <ul><li>6Max stole the car, hit the tree and was escaping on foot.</li></ul> <ul><li>Max stole the car, hit the tree and escaped on foot. </li></ul> <p>Faulty parallelism contd 41 43. </p> <ul><li>Be careful when writing lists in sentences. Finish the list before moving on to your next thought. </li></ul> <ul><li>She chose carrots, onions, potatoes and paid for them in cash. </li></ul> <ul><li>She chose carrots, onionsandpotatoes, and paid for them in cash. </li></ul> <p>Faulty parallelism contd 42 44. </p> <ul><li>Heres a more complicated example: </li></ul> <ul><li>6The employees demanded higher salaries, complained about the lack of day care, but their grievances were ignored by the managers. </li></ul> <ul><li> The employees demanded higher salaries and complained about the lack of day care, but their grievances were ignored by the managers. </li></ul> <p>Faulty parallelism contd 43 45. 6. Vague pronouns </p> <ul><li>Ensure that pronouns such as this, they and it refer to something specific.</li></ul> <ul><li>Although the boat hit the dock, it was not damaged. </li></ul> <ul><li>They say the housing market is heating up. </li></ul> <ul><li>Batman hugged Robin before he left the Batcave. </li></ul> <p>44 46. Its your turn! 45 47. 5-minute fact-checking </p> <ul><li>Assume nothing! Everyone makes mistakes.</li></ul> <ul><li>Check proper nouns and book/movie/other titles. </li></ul> <ul><li>Check math (calories, money), prices and recipes/directions. </li></ul> <ul><li>Check ages, locations, job titles. </li></ul> <ul><li>Always check all links!!! </li></ul> <ul><li>Make use of Google, IMDB, Amazon, etc.</li></ul> <ul><li>If it sounds funny, check it. </li></ul> <p> 48. Why create a style guide? </p> <ul><li>Establish a house style that reflects your publications personality </li></ul> <ul><li>Achieve consistency within and between issues </li></ul> <ul><li>Give your editors a condensed reference guide </li></ul> <ul><li>Resource for your web team, marketing department and freelance editors </li></ul> <p> 49. Creating an online style guide </p> <ul><li>Heds/subheds: colour, size, capitalization, numerals vs. written numbers </li></ul> <ul><li>Style of numbered and bulleted lists </li></ul> <ul><li>When to bold, when to italicize </li></ul> <ul><li>Do links open in a new window/tab? </li></ul> <ul><li>What is different online vs. in print? </li></ul> <ul><li>Have a consistent byline style </li></ul> <p> 50. </p> <ul><li>Each publication has its own style and philosophy.</li></ul> <ul><li>You dont have to write your guide all at once. </li></ul> <ul><li>Style guides evolve to fit your needs. </li></ul> <p> Language is more fashion than science, and matters of usage, spelling and pronunciation tend to wander around like hemlines.- Bill Bryson 51. Mindful editing </p> <ul><li>Race:Is it relevant? Why describe someone as exotic? What exactly is flesh-coloured? What does Asian mean?</li></ul> <ul><li>Disability:Avoid patronizing, outdated language e.g., the disabled, wheelchair-bound, confined to a wheelchair, retarded, handicapped, cripple, suffering from, afflicted with, challenged. </li></ul> <ul><li>Its not just about political correctness. Inclusive language speaks to more readers.</li></ul> <p>50 52. Resources 53. Resources 54. </p> <ul><li>Q &amp; A </li></ul> <p>Jaclyn Law [email_address] Kat Tancock [email_address]</p>