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ny times illiteracy #3: bad copy editing

Rar!Moi I usually don't make a fuss about the occasional typo in printed matter, although I will say that standards have slipped appreciably in the last 20 years—especially at the Times. I've read some really wretchedly copy edited books, full of typos, badly set type, and egregious errors, but I do expect better of the "paper of record." I don't care if they're going digital; the same standards should apply. Especially on the editorial page, where the paper's guiding hands voice their opinions.

For Pete's sake, people: proofread your damn work! I feel like I'm yelling at my composition students, but you're professionals!

Here's today's egregious error, from the opening paragraph of an Op-Ed on the recent victory for vaccines:

A special federal vaccine court issued three devastating verdicts on Thursday that should help demolish lingering fears that childhood vaccines can and have caused autism. The verdicts won’t satisfied die-hard adherents of the theory that the medical establishment is recklessly harming their children.

If this were on a student paper, I would be circling it with my trusty colored pen, drawing an arrow to the word "won't," and writing "tense" in the margin.

I know how these errors get made: in the writer's editing process. You change the shape of the sentence and the verb gets left behind. But that's what copy editors are for. In fact, the primary purpose of a copy editor is to keep the writer from looking stupid.

Too bad the Times doesn't employ copy editors anymore.


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Coppy editers, whaz that?

Lee Kottner


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