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Copy Editing for Professionals

Edward J. Rooney and Oliver R. Witte

Copy Editing for Professionals by Ed Rooney and Oliver Witte has established itself as the leading copy-editing textbook and resource for student newspapers.  According to the editor of Copy Editor newsletter,

What a relief!  Several times a week I'm asked to name the best current textbook for copy editors, and now I have just the book to recommend!

The book is packed with uniquely useful approaches.  For example, the book expresses a philosophy of copy editing based on coaching techniques and teamwork.  The authors argue that the day of the gruff, authoritarian copy editor is gone.  The next generation of copy editors must have excellent coaching skills.  By understanding the principles of grammar and succinct writing, modern copy editors help their reporters become better writers – and that is the essence of teamwork.

The authors also emphasize how copy editors reason.  If you want to be a lawyer, you have to learn to think like a lawyer; if you want to be a copy editor, you must learn to think like a copy editor.  And that's how this textbook starts out – by showing how professional copy editors make decisions.  One early chapter applies the classic five-step problem solving process to copy editing.

Perhaps because of the author's reporting experience (which includes a Pulitzer Prize), this textbook makes a uniquely useful tool for reporters who want to use copy-editing  techniques to improve their own writing.  One chapter goes into detail about when NOT to change copy.  Two explanations are forbidden:  "It didn't sound good to me" and "I wouldn't have said it that way."  Students are specifically cautioned against a "Jack-the-Ripper" style of editing.

The book has the usual exercises and drills, but it takes them to a new level.  Each section is introduced with a sample exercise that walks the student through the answers using programmed instruction techniques.  The student is shown how to analyze the problem being presented and where to find the reference that justifies the edit.

One of the strengths of this textbook is its strict adherence to AP style.  You won't have to explain to your students why the authors don't practice what they preach.  You'll also like the way the book used humor, examples and games to make its points.  And lest any student think that language is cut and dried, one chapter specifically addresses some of the "sticky issues" of editing, using the Declaration of Independence as one example.

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