Shoulda, coulda, woulda used an editor.
November 19, 2005 1:12 AM   Subscribe

For the want of an editor! For a class I'd like to find some examples of text that could benefit from better editing.

Answers like (or!) aren't helpful, rather articles, news stories etc. that have been, or should have been, reviewed by an editor, yet are still conspicuously lacking.
I'm guessing there will be a few of you who could offer pretty extensive lists.
posted by bystander to Writing & Language (28 answers total)
What kind of editing? Edits for content, clarity, typos, grammar, or some combination?
posted by kyleg at 1:29 AM on November 19, 2005

the Oregonian has some pretty horrendous editing mistakes on a pretty regular basis.
posted by devilsbrigade at 1:41 AM on November 19, 2005

All kinds of editing, kyleg. Probably a combination would be the most interesting, rather than a well done piece with just a single factual error, for example.
posted by bystander at 2:00 AM on November 19, 2005

Wikipedia articles needing copy edit
posted by grouse at 2:21 AM on November 19, 2005

Jon Katz had a reputation for being verbose and meandering. You can see a few examples of his work under "References".
posted by teleskiving at 2:24 AM on November 19, 2005

When this article was posted to the blue recently, everyone agreed that it was in dire need of editing.
posted by gorillawarfare at 2:36 AM on November 19, 2005

A recent New Zealand herald article is fire with errors.
posted by scodger at 2:46 AM on November 19, 2005

Jeez, if you weren't looking for publshed stuff you could take any one of my posts...

But more to the point, my local alternative weekly might be worth checking out. One example: I can't even read this story's first two paragraphs silently without stopping for a breath.
posted by Opposite George at 3:38 AM on November 19, 2005

If you're at a university, the student newspaper is usually a terrific source of all sorts of writing errors. It's all I can do not to return ours every week, dripping with red ink (or are we supposed to use purple now so we don't hurt their self-esteem?).
posted by SashaPT at 4:02 AM on November 19, 2005

If you really care, SashaPT, I imagine your student newspaper would be happy to have another copy editor.
posted by grouse at 4:11 AM on November 19, 2005

This blog is filled with copy editors pointing out just the kind of thing you're looking for.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 4:19 AM on November 19, 2005

opposite george - that 2nd paragraph in that story has a truly screwed up sentence ... "If conditions outside the church are cramped, they're even tighter inside, where the nondenominational church hosts weekly youth services on Wednesdays, squeezing 80-100 kids, according to BRCC High School Director Jeremy Taylor, into a room designed for 60."

the way that reads, i get a mental image of a bunch of perverts running around squeezing kids before i finish the sentence ...
posted by pyramid termite at 7:12 AM on November 19, 2005

I have to second the Wikipedia. Sometimes I'll stumble upon a particularly horrendous article that is apparently somebody's pet. If a well-meaning fellow such as myself attempts to edit it for clarity (and not content), the edits get reverted! Mind-boggling. Not that I'm bitter.

The internet really is your best source for material that is in dire need of editing. Weblogs are terrific fodder, even weblogs from those who should know better. (For example, I have a bad habit of not proofreading.) In the Real World, your best bet is probably to find some self-produced 'zines. Some of these are real beauts.
posted by jdroth at 8:13 AM on November 19, 2005

Bad writing is easy to find. I suggest older political speeches and romance or popular novels. There are few spelling errors in these, but there are wickedly funny errors in most of them-- stupid mistakes with pronouns, mixed metaphors and cliches. Nixon is good for this because laughing at him is pretty safe. He was the one to coin that awful phrase-- at that point in time.

Kitty Kelly is very good for this sort of thing.

Please find something with lots of 'and I' errors. I am feel desperate about the abuse of pronouns.
posted by gesamtkunstwerk at 8:16 AM on November 19, 2005

The Harry Potter books.
posted by Good Brain at 8:38 AM on November 19, 2005

The last letter you got from the IRS, or any other governmental organization?
posted by gesamtkunstwerk at 8:51 AM on November 19, 2005

Good Brain beat me to it. I can't believe Book 5 has been the longest of them all considering absolutely nothing happens in it.
posted by Robot Johnny at 8:53 AM on November 19, 2005

The Harry Potter books.

Ha! I say this all the time. Actually, the first three books are fine, but after that Rowling seems to have been given free reign. Beginning with Goblet of Fire, these books are in desperate need of editing. Rowling never wrote a sentence she didn't think could be improved by an ellipse...they're so fun to write...we should all use them!
posted by jdroth at 10:18 AM on November 19, 2005

The second amendment. That damn comma screws everything up.
posted by CunningLinguist at 11:17 AM on November 19, 2005

the older harlequin romances, especially those written by non-americans in the 60s and 70s, can be horrendous in their mangling of language
posted by pyramid termite at 11:19 AM on November 19, 2005

Back when I did a newspaper-journalism course, our editing tutor used to give us articles from that day's (London) Evening Standard and tell us to edit them into news stories. That was over a decade ago, and while the Standard has improved slightly any issue of its sibling paper Metro would fit your bill nicely.
posted by Hogshead at 3:03 PM on November 19, 2005

pyramid termite: Would you believe that was the first story I looked at? The paper's pretty much worth its price (gratis.)

And yeah, that sentence would be a bad one to excerpt out of context.

Heh heh. It says "tighter inside." Heh heh heh.
posted by Opposite George at 5:10 PM on November 19, 2005

College newspapers tend to have godawful editing, that's where I'd go first (my favorite was a police blotter entry that said a student was reprimanded for "distributing the peace" -- they also spelled the name of the library wrong in the same entry).

Small town newspapers are also a good source of bad prose.
posted by dagnyscott at 7:09 PM on November 19, 2005

posted by booksandlibretti at 7:48 PM on November 19, 2005

Editors at The Washington Post missed some clues on Janet Cook's Jimmy's World, though that's easy to say in hindsight.

Also, see Jayson Blair's ouevre, and check out The New York Times corrections box and see whether there are any major errors an editor could have caught or at least noticed as questionable.
posted by Airhen at 8:31 PM on November 19, 2005

Actually, the first three books are fine, but after that Rowling seems to have been given free reign.

Rein. (I normally wouldn't edit on vacation, but the thread's impossible to resist.)

If you want them to tackle some fiction, geez. there's tons of that, just pick up some old pulps. If they like sci-fi, maybe have them edit some of the ghostwritten E. E. "Doc" Smith stories. There's one series about a group of circus midgets that are really intergalactic secret agents that is just terrible -- probably the worst sci-fi I've ever struggled through.
posted by kindall at 9:51 PM on November 19, 2005

I will second small-town papers, student newspapers, weeklies, etc. My local paper is embarrassing at best, only to be outdone by my hometown paper. Letters to the editor are often excellently awful.
posted by slimslowslider at 10:53 PM on November 19, 2005



[Hides head in shame. Vows never to drink'n'post again.]
posted by jdroth at 12:02 AM on November 20, 2005

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