Questions for a Newspaper Copyeditor: John McIntyre
John McIntyre has been a working copyeditor for more than thirty years. He is currently night content production manager (night editor) at The Baltimore Sun, where he previously has been a copyeditor, slot editor, and copy desk deputy chief, chief, and director. Author of the blog You Don’t Say, lifetime member and former president of the American Copy Editors Society, and instructor of editing at Loyola University Maryland since 1995, John will conduct Copyediting’s audio conference next week, “Charged Language: Dealing with the Unspeakable in Copy.”
How did you get into editing, John?
I abandoned pursuit of a Ph.D. in eighteenth-century British literature and needed a job. Happily, the job I found turned out to be a vocation as well.
How is newspaper copyediting different from your past pursuits?
What I like most is that it’s still collegial, though with a dwindling number of actual people, working, talking, joking at the office instead of sitting in isolation in a room with a text—the thing I hated most about graduate school.
What do you find satisfying about your current position?
It pays, for one. Not to be despised. I have useful work to do, work that I know how to do fairly well, and some measure of esteem from my colleagues.
What resources (books, guides, websites) are particularly helpful to your area of editing?
I still reach for books first. Dictionaries. Garner on usage. Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary of English Usage. And standard electronic reference. I read Language Log and The Economist’s Johnson blog regularly, along with the blogs of fellow editors and language specialists.
What advice would you give other editors interested in newspaper copyediting?
Consider a vocation in a religious order. Then at least someone might feed you.
What are some non-copyediting activities that you find helpful to your work?
Reading. Widely and omnivorously. Biography, history, fiction, theology, murder mysteries. You cannot know too much. And, of course, swearing.
Any favorite techniques or tips in your editing arsenal?
Yes, have someone else read your own stuff whenever possible.
Any interesting projects or articles you’ve worked on simultaneously or back-to-back recently?
Well, blogging, tweeting, and editing for the paragraph factory all in the same day has gotten a little wild. That and working on a book manuscript of my own that it’s premature to describe.
If you weren't editing, what would you like to try as a career?
In the Hollywood adaptation of your story, who plays John McIntyre?
Edward Herrmann as the lead, if you rubbed off some of the polish.
Find more of John McIntyres’s copyediting world on his blog, LinkedIn, Twitter @johnemcintyre, and Facebook. Hear John discuss the new rules of propriety in publication in our January 12 audio conference, “Charged Language: Dealing with the Unspeakable in Copy.”
Image copyright Sofiaworld.