Skip to content

ON THE FRONT LINES: It is your copy editor's world, writers should try living in it


The job of an editor is painfully meticulous and detail-oriented, so be careful when you write and be kind to your editors.   – Photo by

Have you ever truly looked at a comma before? Or deliberated for an hour on the exact capitalization of WALL-E? If you have not, then you probably are not a copy editor.

Copy editors are in charge of, “checking written material for grammar, spelling, style and punctuation issues before it’s prepared for proofreading,” according to Grammarly, coincidentally copy editors’ best tool and worst enemy, simultaneously.

In other words, copy editors are the very backbone of a lot of the books, newspapers, magazines, TV shows and movies or, more specifically, the scripts of movies that you consume. Who do you think makes sure that Robert Downey Jr. does not recite his infamous line, “I am Iron Man,” as “Iron Man me am” instead?

Therefore, editors, and copy editors specifically, are necessary. Now, you might think the placement of colons versus hyphens does not matter in the grand scheme of things, but you would be wrong. If racist, crazy individuals are going to ask people to “speak English,” then they should at least be good at it themselves.

The data does not seem to indicate that Americans are all that good at reading, which is a problem. In terms of reading ability, the U.S. was ranked 13th out of the 79 countries that volunteered to participate in the 2018 Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) rankings, created by the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development as a means of tracking the progress of the mean average of students in each country.

And, compared to 2017, fourth and eighth graders in 2019 were, in fact, getting worse reading scores, according to The Nation’s Report Card. So, not only is the U.S. not all that good at reading, but also the U.S. is not getting any better.

Already, here are two reasons to attempt to better understand the usage of Oxford commas. For one, it is never fun to be ranked below Canada, at sixth place in the PISA rankings, in anything. For another, this is the language that we are born with and grow up with. How can we be told we are not good at it?

And, necessarily, being good at a language requires knowing how to use those colons and hyphens or understanding when a word is plural or singular, i.e., when to use “its” versus “their.”

You may ask, what does this all have to do with editors? I answer, if we are failing at ranking above average in reading, then editors are even more necessary. Reading and writing are highly interconnected, being two sides of the same coin. Without the ability to express ourselves coherently, we lack the ability to lead nations and serve as an example of democratic hopefulness.

Then, there is the argument that if everyone was good at knowing grammar rules, there would not be a need for editors. It depends on how you see editors.

For example, editors can also be seen more broadly as wise, sage teachers or introspective, thoughtful guidance counselors — is it going too far to call them heroes? Not only are they providing you with constructive criticism and feedback each week, but they are also in the business of looking out for you.

One great editor who exemplified this very notion is Max Perkins, an editor for F. Scott Fitzgerald. “(Perkins) changed what editors do by becoming their best friends, their money lenders, their marriage counselors, their psychoanalysts,” according to NPR.

And, although much has changed in the world since Perkins’ days, guaranteed, editors today still feel like psychoanalysts, trying to discern the true meaning of a misplaced word.

Nevertheless, editing has always been and will always be an important part of the process of making a masterpiece. The editing is what helps take an ill-formed idea or misshapen entity and transforms it into a piece worth reading.

The problem is that the editorial profession is dying a little, or at least, the editors themselves are — metaphorically, of course.

“The work can be stressful because editors often have tight deadlines,” according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. “Employment of editors is projected to decline 7 percent from 2019 to 2029.”

The job has long hours and can be highly stressful. People might not be able to find the same passion they once derived from the editing profession without having an adequate support system or comparable salary.

Therefore, take some time out of your day today and thank your editors. It is not that hard, but it is something to say thanks to your editor if you get the chance. They are trying their hardest and their best to make sure that your work shines.

And, probably most importantly, listen to your editors. They also love you and your writing, so it may be time to take a deeper, more introspective look at what the problem is if your writing keeps needing a lot of editing.

Chloe Tai is the associate copy editor for The Daily Targum.

*Columns, cartoons and letters do not necessarily reflect the views of the Targum Publishing Company or its staff.

YOUR VOICE | The Daily Targum welcomes submissions from all readers. Due to space limitations in our print newspaper, letters to the editor must not exceed 900 words. Guest columns and commentaries must be between 700 and 900 words. All authors must include their name, phone number, class year and  college affiliation or department to be considered for publication. Please submit via email to by 4 p.m. to be considered for the following day’s publication. Columns, cartoons and letters do not necessarily reflect the views of the Targum Publishing Company or its staff.

Related Articles


Join our newsletterSubscribe