Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Clueless editing award of the (still-young) month

How to give copy editors a bad name in one easy lesson. Latest in a series! Collect them all!

Original lede:
DURHAM -- John Cornwell's latest invention is the stuff Super Bowl commercials are made of.

It is a dorm fridge with a twist. Push a button and it launches a cold, frosty brew your way.

As "edited" in a fellow McClatchy rag:
DURHAM -- John Cornwell's latest invention is the stuff of which Super Bowl commercials are made: a dorm fridge that, with a push a button, launches a cold, frosty brew your way.

This is embarrassing. Or at the very least, it should be embarrassing. Once more, with feeling: If you're going to steal a cliche, steal the damn thing correctly. It's "the stuff dreams are made of," not -- not, not, NOT -- "the stuff of which dreams are made."

It's not that there isn't plenty of editing to be done. The writer can't decide on a register. He slips too easily into commercial-speak (journalism doesn't dislike adjectives; it just dislikes stupid ones, as in "cold, frosty brew"). And the copy editor didn't check the suturing after the alleged edit, so we end up with "a push a button." The copyed who lets all that slide just to fix something that wasn't broken in the first place makes us all look like pinheads.

It's tempting to offer something like "I hope they don't hang you, precious, by that hypercorrecting neck." But if the writer insists, it's going to be hard to stop him.


Blogger The Ridger, FCD said...

It's a horrible correction, to be sure, but the original is actually: "We are such stuff as dreams are made on, and our little life is rounded with a sleep."

I wonder who first misquoted it? Was it Thomas Wentworth Higginson (in his well-known sonnet of that (misquoted) name back in 1900, or was it someone else?

5:48 AM, March 14, 2007  
Blogger Denise said...

Personally, I don't care what Shakespeare originally said -- the writer is referencing a phrase well-known in pop culture, both before and after Carly Simon.

None of this excuses the editor from trying to keep a sentence from ending with a preposition, when the sentence doesn't even actually end there: It's just a colon!

2:33 PM, March 14, 2007  
Blogger fev said...

Carly Simon? OK, I'm officially old now.

I'm querying my other text-studying friends on whether the on/of thing can be traced past the turn of the pvs century. Any and all contributions are welcome.

4:07 PM, March 14, 2007  

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