Every now and then, people ask me whether I actually enjoy my job. They point out that I spend hours at The Michigan Daily every week making others look better and ask me if, deep down, I’d rather being doing something people actually cared about and recognized. While these questions usually surprise me, I admit I can see where they’re coming from. To someone not involved in copy editing, it may seem like a tiresome, time-consuming, overlooked job that couldn’t possibly be enjoyable, especially when compared to the other sections of the paper, in which people write about the things they love. However, one article is only enough for me to scratch the surface of how much I love copy editing.
When I joined the Daily during the winter of 2015, I had been interested in multiple sections of the paper but ultimately chose to join the copy desk because it seemed most relevant to my future career goal: being a book editor. I knew that I would improve my grammar and fact-checking skills all while gaining valuable editing experience. Now, though — hundreds of articles later — this job is not just one that intersects slightly with my desired future profession; rather, it’s exactly the type of job I want in the future. In fact, I like it so much that I want to keep it for the next 40 to 50 years.
The reasons for my passion for copy editing are many. I guess I’ll start with my affection for the little details — the ones that often go unnoticed but are nevertheless important. I love making sure that everything is done correctly, and, I confess, I find pleasure in knowing things others might not. Consequently, I have always been one of the “bad cops” on the grammar police squad, habitually correcting friends and family members’ grammar. Copy editing therefore provides me with at least 10 hours a week to make use of this particular facet of my personality.
The small details involved in copy editing also include ensuring articles conform to AP style. While I can’t claim to like every rule — e.g., the usual lack of an Oxford comma — I do appreciate the common aesthetic it provides. Without AP style, every article would look different based on the preferences of the authors and the editors, making the overall paper look messy and unprofessional. AP style averts this issue and, most of the time, quite simply makes the articles look better. Frankly, I’m glad there are rules for these small but definitely noticeable details.
Copy editing, however, involves more than just checking for grammatical and stylistic errors. Often, the most tedious aspect of copy editing is the fact-checking, though it’s also the most important. I would be lying if I said I loved this part of the job, but, then again, I’d also be lying if I said I hated it. Most of the time, fact-checking involves looking for people’s titles on LinkedIn or using Control + F to find the necessary quotes and figures in a recent press release or scientific study. I struggle to think of reasons why anyone would feel strongly about either task. However, while I am emotionally indifferent toward fact-checking, I appreciate the responsibility that comes with it. As with any publication, the Daily’s reputation is closely linked to how it presents the facts. Therefore, we copy editors have to do everything we can to verify the information in the articles we read. What we do matters, and that’s a great feeling.
Finally, I would be amiss if I failed to mention how much I enjoy simply being a part of the Daily’s newsroom. Even when I was a primary copy editor, I spent all my time working for the Daily inside the newsroom — something I didn’t properly appreciate initially. When I worked at the Daily over the summer, I edited a significant number of articles remotely, and it just wasn’t the same. There’s something special about being a part of the production process that enlivens the work and makes it hardly seem like work at all. Years from now, when I look back at my time here at the University of Michigan, I know that I’ll remember my nights here with nothing but fondness. Thankfully, though, I have 15 more months before I get nostalgic.
It’s a common adage that you should “Find something you love to do and you’ll never have to work a day in your life.” While this quote, of course, must be taken with a grain of salt, I think it describes my experience as a copy editor so far. Every time I walk to 420 Maynard St., I don’t look at it as walking to work — I look at it as walking to do one of my favorite activities here at the University. I’ve found a job that I love to do, and, because of that, I’m extremely lucky.