ELMHURST – One of my first jobs in the news business was as a copy editor. That meant that I was the last line of defense for catching mistakes. Anything I missed was going to make it to the reader.
Just about everything I read had been through another editor before it got to me, and yet there were always more mistakes for me to find. Sometimes really important stories had been through three or four editors – and yet, there were always mistakes for me to find.
I wasn’t perfect either, nor am I now. As my career progressed and I was charged with training other copy editors, I felt pressure to be perfect, to set a good example. I think most of my trainees from those days would agree that my accuracy rate was exceptional. But still, mistakes got through.
Suppose my accuracy rate was 95 percent. That would mean that out of every 100 mistakes that I needed to catch, I’d miss five. That sounds pretty good. If the stories I was reading on a given day had only 10 or 15 mistakes total, then there’s a good chance that I’d catch them all.
But increase the number of mistakes to 30 or 40, and no matter how careful I am, something’s going to slip through the cracks. A proofreader can improve his or her effective rate by taking more time, being more thorough, reading, re-reading and then re-reading again. The problem is, in the news business there often isn’t time for that third extra read.
Even the most careful writers are often blind to their own mistakes, no matter how carefully they proofread.
Now I’m going to be the primary writer for The Elmhurst Titan. And I don’t have a copy editor backing me up. Maybe somewhere down the road I will, but for now it’s just not in the cards. And worse, even the most careful writers are often blind to their own mistakes, no matter how carefully they proofread. Sometimes the brain just inserts the word you meant to write, even though it’s clearly not there.
So please be kind if you see a dumb mistake on this site. If I use the wrong there, their or they’re, it doesn’t mean that I don’t know the rule. Sometimes my fingers betray me when I’m typing. Shoot me a note to email@example.com and I’ll get it fixed ASAP.
And if there’s a truly substantive mistake in a story, I’ll want to fix those, too. You can keep track of whether and serious mistakes have been corrected on the page that houses the corrections policy.