Searching for the copy editing bible
June 20, 2007 6:46 AM   Subscribe

What are the best books I can buy to learn how to become a proficient newspaper copy editor?
posted by dead_ to Writing & Language (12 answers total) 16 users marked this as a favorite
 
Start with this one.
posted by Steven C. Den Beste at 6:53 AM on June 20, 2007 [1 favorite]


Words into Type, AP stylebook. Poytner also has some tips. Mediabistro might also have some useful info.
posted by ejaned8 at 7:01 AM on June 20, 2007


The Bible.
posted by fidelity at 7:01 AM on June 20, 2007


Essential English for Journalists, Writers and Editors by Harold Evans is, for me, the key text.

Also excellent:

English for Journalists by Wynford Hicks
Troublesome Words by Bill Bryson
The Economist Style Guide - the book is superior to what is available online, I think, and easier to consult.
posted by WPW at 7:05 AM on June 20, 2007 [1 favorite]


Great suggestions so far. Perhaps I should be a bit more clear, though: I have the Elements of Style as well as the AP Style Book, but I'm looking for something that would maybe find more use as an instructive text in a college class, or something I can work through from beginning to end, rather than a reference guide.
posted by dead_ at 7:32 AM on June 20, 2007


I reckon besides getting an internship at a highly regarded newspaper, you might want to search for similar books to this on Amazon.
posted by JJ86 at 7:46 AM on June 20, 2007


Have you tried searching for "newspaper copy editing" on Amazon? A lot of interesting books come up.

Don't forget to look into newspaper design books, too, as most newspaper copy editors these days also paginate. Tim Harrower's book is a good starting point.
posted by phatkitten at 7:56 AM on June 20, 2007


dead_: I'm looking for something that would maybe find more use as an instructive text in a college class, or something I can work through from beginning to end, rather than a reference guide.

Evans' Essential English is structured to be read from beginning to end.

I'd also say that although Troublesome Words is an a-z reference, Bryson's writing makes it a pleasure to read casually.
posted by WPW at 8:45 AM on June 20, 2007


The Evans book is vital. I know a friend who taught a subbing course from it.
posted by bonaldi at 9:34 AM on June 20, 2007


The books that made me a good copy editor were Theodore Bernstein's Watch Your Language and More Language That Needs Watching, which are out of print but largely duplicated in The Careful Writer, and Headlines and Deadlines which he wrote with R. E. Garst.

Bill Walsh used to maintain a great copy-editing site called The Slot, which is now rarely updated but has an ongoing blog; and his books Lapsing Into a Comma and The Elephants of Style are better than their title puns would suggest.
posted by nicwolff at 10:40 AM on June 20, 2007 [1 favorite]


Take a university course! submissions. Maybe you're a book learner, but I can't imagine learning copy editing without an experienced instructor and lots and lots and lots and lots of practice with real-world writing.
posted by loiseau at 12:57 PM on June 20, 2007


I'm not trying to break your heart or spirit, but you can't become a proficient newspaper copy editor by just reading books. You have to actually work at a newspaper, and no daily that I know of will hire editors with no experience.

If you are in college, you might start by working at the campus newspaper. If you're already a newspaper reporter and want to broaden skills to include copy editing, ask an editor whether you can start doing some copy editing on weekends and holidays. Daily newspapers nearly always need bodies on Saturday nights and Sunday afternoons.

Another way to improve your editing skills is to find a newspaper or magazine that you think needs help in the editing department. Get a red pen and start killing the copy. Don't send your handiwork back to the paper or magazine, but just look at how you improved that sloppy profile or incomplete expose. (I'm a "retired" copy editor, and I still like to do that -- yes, it's weird, and I admit I don't have a social life.)

Best books are: AP Stylebook, Bill Walsh's, Bernstein's and others mentioned by previous posters. Also read the thesaurus and dictionary for fun (OK, OK, I lead a dull life). AND go to the American Copy Editors Society website for more links, more discussions, good tips, etc. Good luck!
posted by Smalltown Girl at 2:57 PM on June 20, 2007


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