New media: Different copy, different editing

There’s a great post over at Vanderbilt Wife about the differences in blog writing and traditional writing, what those differences mean for copy editing, and the errors that gain the most significance in the online world.

There is also an interesting discussion on the role of grammar in American society — how we seem to prize the concept but learn little of it. Writing only for myself, I know that going to a Catholic grammar school placed me ahead, both in grammar and how to write, of my public-school counterparts. That’s just one town, of course.

But Americans, by and large, are obsessed with the grammar of others while being blind or ignorant of their own need for grammar advice. There are larger world problems than this, of course. But this situation does put the microscope on those who proclaim to be offering quality — not just of content, but of language.

Back to the new-media landscape. Many “newspaper errors” just don’t matter as much with blogs — voice takes precedence. To whit:

Which is why I have a long list of things considered “errors” in copy-editing world that I don’t mind in blog writing: made-up words, random capitalization, overuse of ellipses and em dashes. To me, those fall under the author’s specific voice.

At my company and likely many others, we make the effort to have some standards, but they, too, are not in the traditional vein. There are some stylebook items, for sure, but the rest is largely format: How do we post a list? How many paragraphs? When do we place the “read more” line? How are we tweeting headlines (or writing headlines for tweeting)?

I believe we’re trying, and succeeding, in being informative and consistent without sacrificing the tone or point that our writers want to get across. What undermines that? Vanderbilt Wife knows:

Misusing it’s and its, you’re and your, they’re and their and there. Blatant typos that suggest the author did not read over her work before posting it. These are simple things to learn.

The little errors will kill you online. Content matters, and blogs, especially company ones, that have editors examining their posts need to guide, when needed, the writers in organizing succinct, compelling and accurate thoughts. But someone, be it a professional editor or just an American obsessed with grammar, must be on the lookout for typos. When it comes to editing blog posts, typos are the biggest fear a large blogging operation should have.

The lesson: For too many people, there is too much content out there to waste time at sites littered with typos. And God forbid I have any in this post.

2 thoughts on “New media: Different copy, different editing

  1. Well, thank you, too — I'm always glad to find some positive mention of copy editing on the Web. And yeah, nothing more terrifying than writing about other people's typos and errors.


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