Copy That: Turning my passion into reality

Monday, April 15, 2019 - 6:09pm

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Illustration by Christine Jegarl

Gaining a solid foundation in grammar was one of the hallmarks of my 10 years attending Catholic school. Every year, from first grade to eighth grade, there was a class dedicated solely to grammar, a 45-minute block of time each day dedicated to learning the intricacies of the English language. While most other schools include grammar as a unit in the all-encompassing “language arts” class curriculum, my school gave it the attention it deserved.

We had both a textbook and workbook for the class, with nightly homework in each. While many of my classmates bristled at the repeated instruction of nouns, verbs, adverbs and adjectives, believing it to be redundant and unnecessary, I found grammar class to be the best part of my day. I loved the challenge of continually trying to master the complexities contained in learning grammar. There were always new concepts to learn, year after year. Dangling participles. Collective nouns. Passive voice.

Even the standard concepts underlying the language needed continuous attention; with grammar, there was always more work to be done. There were always new situations for which to apply the concepts, and every situation presented unexpected complications that made it different from another sentence. It was a never-ending quest to master the material, and I enjoyed every second of that journey.

All those years of grammar class instilled in me an unconditional love of all things commas, appositives and semicolons. Having good grammar became an integral part of my identity, and I jumped at any chance to express that characteristic. I would help my mom with grammar questions in her marketing presentations, ensuring there were no glaring errors in her sentences. I would edit my sister’s college papers for grammar. I would (sometimes) correct my parents when they used “who” instead of “whom,” at great annoyance to them. I would mark my classmates’ papers full of comments in English class, pointing out every little deviation from the rigidity of grammar I could find.

It gave me great pleasure to flex my grammar muscles, and doing so made me a better speaker and writer. Unfortunately, many of these muscles atrophied during my time in high school, as I didn’t have a class or activity in which to use them. That part of my identity lay dormant, waiting to be put to good use. And I found that good use when I joined the copy desk at The Michigan Daily.

When I showed up at The Daily my first semester of freshman year, I didn’t really know what I wanted to do at the paper. I planned on applying to News because it seemed like the “cool thing” to do, but I wasn’t so keen on the idea of covering events and interviewing attendees; I like working behind the scenes more. I didn’t think I had the people skills required for beat reporting, and I felt as though it would take me too far out of my comfort zone.

I had almost resigned myself to leaving The Daily without finding a role when I heard the copy chief start to speak. The minute I heard the words “grammar” and “editing” come out of her mouth, my ears perked up. Here was just the chance I desired to reorient myself with my true love: correct grammar. At the sight of the pre-test, I was instantly transported back to the good old days of middle school grammar class. I dived into those questions with a sense of eagerness and happiness that I hadn’t found being stuck in the doldrums of distribution classes. I knew then that I found an outlet to channel my grammar energies (without annoying my parents).

I was beyond overjoyed to learn I was selected to be on the Copy team last October, and my joy has only increased in the past two semesters. Being on Copy has made me proud. While there would be no paper without the content sections, there would be no readable paper without the Copy section. Though our work may not be considered “sexy,” and we don’t get to put our name on the articles like writers do, our work is no less important.

We maintain The Daily’s journalistic integrity by ensuring the statistics cited in articles are accurate and represent the situation correctly. We certify students don’t have their names misspelled or their student organizations mischaracterized, avoiding students from being turned off by our work. And, most important of all, we make sure the paper is stylish; that is, there are no grammar errors and reading it aloud would sound pleasing to the ear.

In short, Copy smooths out the rough edges that can come with writing and makes The Daily the beautiful final product you can find in many campus buildings. I am glad to be a part of that process every week, knowing that I can use my grammar knowledge for something positive.