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Annenberg School of Communication and Journalism University of Southern California

The Challenges of Copy Editing

Believe it or not, I find copy editing to be one of the hardest parts of creating a newscast. When it comes to creating a copy story, the writing does not take me very long, but the copy editing is just not natural. It may have something to do with how my brain is wired, but I find it difficult to look for spelling errors and missing words.

Even copy editing my own work can be challenging. At home, I have the time to go off in the quiet to really focus. I can sit down, read each line out loud, word-by-word to make sure what I have written makes sense and is grammatically correct. However, even when I do that I am notorious for missing things, most often two or three letter words. And it’s not because I am careless, I have a meticulous process, but catching the mistakes is not a strength of mine. (For example, it took me reading this paragraph three times to catch that I missed the word ‘not’ in the last sentence.)

Luckily, through the past few years of journalism courses, I have gotten much better at copy editing, but it still takes me longer to catch everything, and sometimes things still slip through the cracks when I’m pressed for time. This is especially challenging in the newsroom environment. I often forget where I just was in the story I was copy editing and have to start over. Even just getting asked a question or someone saying my name distracts me just enough to where I lose focus.

I have been thinking about how to address this issue. Realistically, I just can’t tell the newsroom to be quiet because I have to focus. I can’t tell everyone to stop needing me for twenty minutes so I can look over the stories. And, as much as I’ve debated it, I can’t bring in the earplugs I use at home because I have to be cognizant of what is going on in the newsroom.

After thinking about how to resolve the issue, a few solutions have come to mind. Word processing software, such as Microsoft Word, really helps me to catch mistakes I do not see on my own. So, even though the stories are written in iNews, it can be helpful for me to just copy and paste those stories into a word processing software to check for missing words and spelling errors. That way, once I have copy edited the message and the larger portions of the text, I can have help catching the smaller things that I have difficulty catching.

I can also use online copy editing software such as I already use that at home and for assignments, such as this blog post, so it only makes sense to take an extra two minutes and run the stories through the website as well.

Lastly, I need to budget time to copy edit stories. While telling people to wait twenty minutes to do everything all at once may be unrealistic, asking an MJ to wait two minutes for me to read something over is. If I can use that extra two minutes even just to make sure I don’t miss something big, like forgetting to change half of the “Trending Topics” tag, could go a long way. 


Please stop hyphenating "copy editing".

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