Copy Editing the World

I’ve been getting some questions about the Copy Edit the World assignment, the first installment of which (10 points worth) is due this Sunday. Here’s a link to the details of this assignment.

For this assignment, your task is find AP style errors, typos, misused words, and grammatical and punctuation errors in published materials or signage … and post them on your blog, along with your corrections. Note: You have to correct the error to get credit for this assignment.

This exercise will help you sharpen your editing eyes so you can catch errors in your own assignments … before you submit them, and lose points when I find them.

To help you get started, here are some errors I’ve run across lately. If you can spot and correct one of these errors, you can earn 2 points of extra credit. Just post your correction as a comment on this blog post. (One error and correction per person, please, so we can spread the extra credit around.)

I particularly like the first example shown above because it’s a correction that needs correcting — it contains another error. I spotted the one on the right in today’s SF Chronicle. I used to watch The Three Stooges on TV when I was a kid, so it was a fun read … except for that misused word (hint).

I found this error in an email from PoynterOnline, a journalism organization. Oops … setting a bad example!

Yes, I find errors on Facebook too. So can you.  (Solved by Jeff C. — good job!)

I figure Robert Redford must have been red-faced when he realized that his Sundance catalog holiday letter to customers contained an embarrassing error. Can you find it? It’s a funny one.

Grappling with AP style

Most of you are doing well with the lead-writing assignments, but a lot of you had trouble with that first AP style exercise. The good news is that I usually drop your lowest AP style grade when I calculate final grades.

I know it takes a while to get good at spotting potential AP style errors and at figuring out how to use the AP Stylebook. So this week you can take another whack at it.

But maybe there’s another way to approach this. When I teach my “on ground” classes, I usually make AP style quizzes a team sport. I find it’s easier to learn AP style when you can put your heads together and learn from each other. I’m open to doing something like that here too … if we can figure out how to do it.

One way might be to use social media. For instance, I suspect many of you are on Facebook and could work together there if you “friended” each other. I could also set up a Twitter page for the class, if anyone is interested in using that venue. And I see that several of you have Yahoo email, so you could collaborate via a Yahoo group or by IMing.

If you’ve got a suggestion on good way to collaborate on AP style exercises, please add it as a comment to this blog post so others can see it too. Maybe if we put our heads together, we can come up with a good alternative.

Payment reminder

According to a memo from the SJSU bursar’s office, the spring registration and housing payment deadline is Thursday, Feb. 18. The enrollment cancellation deadline is Friday, Feb. 19.

That means that if you’re not paid up, you could be dropped from your classes this Friday … and we won’t be able to add you back. So take care of it if you need to.

The bursar’s website is at

Grading continues apace

I’m working my way through last week’s assignments. I’ve finished grading about half of them today; I’ll try to finish reviewing the rest of them tomorrow. I’ll also email your first AP style exercise tomorrow.

This time I started grading from the top of the alphabet; next week I’ll work from the bottom up so that those of you at the end of the alphabet aren’t always getting your grades last.

I’m seeing a few recurring problems in these assignments, so here are some things to remember:

  • Most of you are not identifying the news values present in your top news story. See Inside Reporting, p. 19, “What Makes a Story Interesting to Readers?” for a list of news values.
  • I’m seeing a tendency to write leads that sound like headlines, not sentences. Make sure your lead reads like a sentence. One way to do that is to make sure you include the words “the” and “a” in your leads.
  • Don’t start with your lead with the “when” or “where” of a story. Start with the most important and/or interesting info, which is generally the “who” and/or “what” of the story.
  • Keep your lead paragraph to 25-35 words, and preferably to one sentence. This means not all information will fit in the lead. It’s up to you to figure out which information is the most important (such as what happened, when and where), and which information can go in a subsequent paragraph.

Links to assigments are now working

As I was checking the links to this week’s lead exercises, I realized that some of them weren’t working. Oops! It took me a while today to find the typo that was the source of the problem, but I believe I’ve got all the links fixed now.

If you run across anything that isn’t working correctly, please email me. Thanks.