Thursday, April 5, 2012
I’ve been an editor since high school, but here’s a copy-editing problem I’d never run across until a few days ago. I find it fascinating, but then again, I’m an editor.
One misspelled word. Three options for fixing it. What would you do?
When I typed that word into this document, my computer automatically deleted one "s" so the word would be spelled correctly. It did it so quickly that I couldn’t tell which "s" it eliminated. I had to go back and reinsert a third one for the purposes of this blog post.
But when I was actually presented with the word for editing, it wasn’t in a computer document. It was a hard copy. On paper. In other words, my task was to take a red pen and slash through an "s". But which one?
I chose the second one, just because it seemed most symmetrical to cross out the middle "s" and leave the two bookend ones intact. But was that fair to the second "s"? By most logic, the first and second ones are correct. It’s the third "s" that shouldn’t be there, right? What do you all think?
It’s interesting that this editing tension came up when considering the word pressure. As William Shatner famously said in Airplane, “I guess irony can be pretty ironic sometimes.”