I didn't plan to be a copy editor and proofreader when I started in the newspaper business in 1979. I wanted to go to sporting events, take pictures, meet and interview famous people, grow as a writer.
And I've done all of those things. I've interviewed everyone from Richard Petty to Nadia Comaneci, from Dale Earnhardt to Mark Gastineau, from Darrell Waltrip to Dan Jansen. I've interviewed Indy 500 winners Parnelli Jones and Johnny Rutherford. And I've covered the Daytona 500 and the Brickyard 400, among other events.
But for 30 years I've also been a copy editor and proofreader. I've found mistakes and improved the writing for myself and for others. Everything I edit gets a little shorter, a little tighter, and, in most cases, a lot better. Same with my proofreading; it's only a matter of scale.
Everyone needs a good editor or proofreader, especially a good copy editor/proofreader like me.
I've found some great mistakes in my copy and elsewhere. I once left the score out of a rugby game story, and I recall at least one writer leaving off the first name of a college athlete who was being featured in the newspaper. This was pre-Internet, so I had to go to our photo file to find the athlete's first name. I wasted at least a half hour on that one.
Another time, my boss wrote a golf column with the names of four great golfers -- I know that Mark Calcavecchia's name was in there. I fixed two of the golfers' names, then learned the next day that the two other names were misspelled, too. I learned a lesson — never assume a writer (even a great one) has double-checked his facts and spellings.
I've had a few adventures on the desk. Once, I walked into the office, and I was pretty much working alone. One of the writers answered the phone for me, and I did everything else. Thinking back to the movie City Slickers, that might have been my best day (and a nightmare while it was happening).
I'm a pretty good editor, and I've worked with some terrific editors. One or two were simply outstanding. I learned a bit from all of them. And, thankfully, I'm still learning.
More EDITOR@WORK blog entries
Blog entries from The Auto Racing Journal
(a book of great stories about the Intimidator)
(the book of great NASCAR stories)
More blog entries by Tom Gillispie
Anecdotes by Tom Gillispie