Copy Editing Conundrum 4: ‘Tis the Season

Episode 4

Some of you may have already seen the following, but to start off the new year wrong, I give you this lovely college football bowl season headline that is a copy editing gut check. Also, it’s a good reminder to use your eyes, as well as spell check.





Copy Editing Conundrum 3: One, two, three, four, what are we editing for?

Episode 3

You didn’t think I was going to leave you without an editing present for Christmas, did you? Below is an Internet meme you have probably already seen, but it still gives me Christmas cheer, so I thought I would share. Newspapers are almost easy targets sometimes. Those of us who have worked in the business know how difficult it is to slam a headline on a story before deadline slams shut. Still, some are just head-shakers.

Did the copy editor actually read the story before writing this one? Or was he or she just a hater of both English and math?

conundrum image

Copy Editing Conundrum 2: Comma Karma

Episode 2

*Here’s the latest Copy Editing Conundrum: it comes from an excellent book on graphic design, The Elements of Graphic Design.

Sequencing information should logically and clearly lead from the primary visual to the headline, then to the secondary visual, caption, subhead, and finally to the text. Each of these pieces should be chosen or written as one part of a single continuous message the purpose of which is to reveal to the reader what the article is about and why it is valuable to them.

My conundrum is this: in the second sentence should there be a comma after “message”? I would insert a comma. So copy editors, what would you do?


*Note: This is by no means a criticism of the book or its contents. As I say, it’s an excellent book.



Copy editing conundrum 1: “try to” vs. “try and”

Today, I’m introducing the pilot episode of what I hope to make an irregular feature on this blog . . .

Copy Editing Conundrums


At work today I encountered a conundrum: the encroachment with seeming frequency of the bugaboo “try and” vs. “try to”. The first encounter wasgrammar in a sentence I was editing. The next almost caused me to spit out my lunchtime sandwich.

I was reading along in what otherwise seems a fine book, Kelly L. Stone’s Living Write: The Secret to Inviting Your Craft Into Your Daily Life, (Ms. Stone, please don’t hate me; I am a copy editor, so it’s perfectly natural) when I stumbled upon this sentence:

Setting herself up to try and achieve the impossible was, at first, a trouble spot for Amber Leigh Williams, author of Denied Origin.

My immediate desire was to change “try and” to “try to”. Alas, I couldn’t edit this error apparent! By Crom! No hack-n-slash fun for me. Saddened, I closed the book, and thought about writing this very blog post you have before you.

I gnawed on this conundrum for some time, and a-googling I went. Had the world gone mad? Had “try and” officially seeped into the language? I sought experts. OK, one expert—Grammar Girl. Here’s what she has to say about it (click “it” to follow the link).

So, copy editors, what is your opinion? “Try to” or “try and”?




A Dark Journey into Eros

Killing Johnny Fry: A Sexistential NovelKilling Johnny Fry: A Sexistential Novel by Walter Mosley

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Combine Henry Miller with Camus and Sartre and you have Walter Mosley’s sexistentialist novel Killing Johnny Fry.

When Cordell Carmel discovers his longtime lover Joelle is having an affair with a casual acquaintance Johnny Fry, Cordell descends into a long day’s journey into night. Cordell immediately quits his job and proceeds to have affairs with multiple women and plots Fry’s murder.

Cordell’s psyche is sent deeper into an existential abyss through his obsession with a high-end porn movie, the Myth of Sisypha.

What follows is a sexual odyssey–and sexually explicit that leads Cordell, bent on revenge, into a hallucinatory adventure with Sisypha herself at an underground combination orgy/Fight Club in which Cordell’s very being is at stake.

In many way’s reminiscent of Camus’ The Stranger and perhaps even Johnny Cash’s “Folsom Prison Blues,” the novel’s climax—spoiler alert—ends with Johnny Fry shot down, although it becomes murder by proxy, as Cordell himself cannot go through with the act.

It’s dark exploration of Eros, worth the read. But, don’t expect a story of redemption. Cordell is an existentialist anti-hero at the same level as Camus’ Meursalt.