Copy That: We see things others don't

Tuesday, February 13, 2018 - 5:14pm

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Hannah Myers

Imagine pouring your blood, sweat and tears into a lengthy, time-consuming research paper, only to receive a less-than-ideal score because of the mere fact that you mistakenly interchanged “there”, “their” and “they’re”. Or perhaps your overuse of the passive voice clouded the central points of your work, leading to an inevitable lower score. The absolute horror.

Well, it is for us copy editors, at least.

Huddled at a single table amid the beautiful mess known as The Michigan Daily newsroom, we’re perceived as one of the more quiet tables. Our contribution to the newspaper involves anticipating the arrival of buzzing news articles and intriguing opinion pieces so that we may silently, yet slightly snarkily, point out grammatical and factual errors. All 24 of us are diverse in backgrounds and experiences but manage to bond over our mutual understanding and appreciation of the importance of “proofreading on steroids.”

My fellow English nerds and I at the copy desk are more than happy doing what we do: bringing out the best in others’ writing. Through the three stages of copy editing an article undergoes — from primary editor to senior editor to the copy chief — each of us seeks to make the content of the article more accurate, the sentences smoother and have the story look as polished and professional as can be.

Copy editors single-handedly establish and maintain a news source’s credibility, making the daily morning paper a worthwhile read. Using our talented, watchful eyes, we make sure our readers don’t have to cringe at misused phrases or wince out of frustration at the heinous sight of an obviously incorrect “fact.”

As crucial as copy editors are to publications, we’re just as necessary to have around as friends who are always eager to pounce on the opportunity to enable our loved ones to shine through their writing, whether it be for an essay or a résumé. We catch tiny mistakes that others wouldn’t, saving our companions from potential bad grades or rejections. Oh yeah, we’re basically superheroes in our own right.

Since high school, I have been involved with editing publications — the annual yearbook being the main target during my pre-college days. When you think of yearbooks, it’s not typically the text within the book that comes to mind right away. However, if you were to look back at your high school yearbooks, you’ll notice the relevance of having a written description, caption or quote accompany an image that was perhaps becoming a little fuzzy in your memory over the years.

Now in college, by ensuring the events and activities taking place on campus and in the world are reported accurately and clearly, I like to think I am still working to achieve the same goal of informing the people of today and reminding the people of tomorrow.

We’re nitpicky, outrageously observant and need things to follow a structured set of rules — probably not the most lovable traits, but I promise, we only intend to be supportive. As such, be certain to let the copy editors/proofreaders/general supporters in your life know how much they are appreciated.