Tag Archives: copy editing

Blondes don’t have more fun

I am currently a blonde. And it turns out that gentleman don’t really prefer them, nor do blondes actually have more fun. I’ll tell you what blondes do have: high hairdressing bills. I am in that salon every three weeks like clockwork. They have me on a rotation of dyeing techniques and tricks so I don’t walk around with a black-rooted mess of yellowing straw on my head.

And we all know what they have in the hairdresser’s. Lots of magazines. Now I work in magazines but apart from checking out the direct competition I really only read them in the hairdresser’s. Well you don’t expect a chef to cook the weeknight dinner do you? Busman’s holiday, much?

I get my fill of gossip and girlie mags while I’m waiting for the bleach to cook or the treatment to work or for that blasted heat contraption to do its thing.

And the other day I was rewarded with one of the best typos I have seen in awhile. It came from one of Australia’s oldest and most revered weekly women’s mags and it was a doozy. A perfect example of two words that sound the same but have completely different meanings. And because the word that was incorrectly used is a real word, no amount of spell checking will  detect the error.

Check out the paragraph in bold font below and see if you can spot it. Answer is in the caption.

Cypress is a type of tree. Cyprus is where moguls and models go sailing.

Cypress is a type of tree. Cyprus is where moguls and models go sailing.

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What is a subeditor?

A friend recently sent me an article about the top 10 jobs parents don’t understand.

It was, unsurprisingly, called 10 Jobs That Are Impossible To Explain To Your Parents.

Being a subeditor was number five. Only they called it a ‘Sub Editor’.

It’s really not such a mystery. Here’s what the dictionary on my computer has to say:

Dictionary definition of term 'sub edit'

The dictionary definition of ‘sub edit’ from my Mac.

A subeditor, sub editor or sub-editor is there to make sure that what goes to print is grammatical, true to house style, in line with the voice of the publication, accurate, factual, well written, comprehensible, spelled correctly, matches the pictures, has the correct page number and footer plus picture credits and byline.

Oh, and most of those snappy headlines and suck-you-in-to-the-story intros and helpful captions. They write those too.

So, not a lot of work then. God knows why those grammar nazis complain, they’re just human spell checkers right?

Wrong, a subeditor has to be a writer, researcher, fact checker, grammarian and diplomat all rolled into one.

Plus they have to have a lot of general knowledge and common sense. There’s no point in making sure a sentence is free of typos if it says something that is complete nonsense.

Like the time I let the words ‘300 cups of milk’ in a recipe go to print. Hey I was tired, it was late and the last recipe in a booklet stuck onto the cover at the last minute. The problem? Seeing 300 on its own doesn’t raise any flags. It’s a real number plus it shows up in recipes all the time with ml or grams after it. See how easy it is to slip up? That’s why we need subeditors.

And the diplomacy part? I’ll let you in on a little secret. Most people who get paid to do so can’t write. Also, they are in denial about it. But even the good writers need smoothing down sometimes when their stuff gets chopped, changed or canned.

Zombie gate

Remember playing Charades as a kid? Acting out a film or book title to the merciless heckling of your siblings?

Well that’s how I remember it anyway.

There was one rule of the game that I always found particularly useful. The one that allows you to tug on your ear, making everyone shout ‘sounds like’, then act out a rhyming word.

Well sometimes it seems like everyone is utilising the ‘sounds like’ rule in their writing. And it’s not just self-published e-book authors (and I use that term extremely loosely) who are guilty of this, although they are the worst offenders, but online journos too.

Here are three I’ve seen a lot of recently:

1. Your nerves are stretched TAUT not TAUGHT, which is that thing they did to you at school.

2. A zombie has a shambling GAIT not GATE, which is that thing that lets you through a fence.

3. Lots of people is a HORDE not HOARD, which is that thing your mum does with useless crap.

These zombies don't have a shambling gait.

These zombies don’t have a shambling gait.