Thursday, June 17, 2010

Copy editing pet peeves

One of my tasks in my day job is copy editing summaries of court cases for legal newsletters. If you've never been a copy editor or worked with one, let me clue you in: Copy editors have a TON of pet peeves, especially if what they're editing is supposed to follow specific guidelines.
In my line of work we follow Associated Press rules for writing news stories and use Blue Book guidelines for citing court cases.
Copy editors are also generally detail-oriented, type-A, obsessive-compulsive people (and not necessarily in that order).
Here's a short list of errors that drive me crazy:
1. Overuse of the word "that." Ninety percent of the time, it's unnecessary.
2. Misplaced or missing commas. You can't just throw them in willy-nilly.
3. Using pronouns to describe two or more of the same things in the same sentence. "He gave him his book" could be interpreted as "Billy gave Tom Billy's book" or "Billy gave Tom Tom's book."
4. Run-on sentences. Enough said.
I would to say that being a copy editor my writing is impeccable. Sadly, I am not immune to errors in my stories. But I guarantee that if I need to include a court citation in one, it will be correctly constructed.

Katie Pasek is the author of "Sure-foot Sam in Jeopardy" and Junior's New Home. For more information, please visit