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Once a Copy Editor, Always a Copy Editor

Lori Fradkin used to copyedit for New York magazine. As a former full-time copy editor myself, her essay, “What It’s Really Like To Be A Copy Editor,” captures the trials of the job and the personality required to do it.

Copy editors will often say the role is invisible and thankless. Like most jobs, it defines who you are all of the time. But unlike, say, being a lawyer or a teacher, it tends to inspire uncomfortable and sometimes dorky conversations with strangers.

Fradkin writes:

No one will look at an edited article and think, I am certain that, once upon a time, there was a double quote where there should have been a single, and a wise person fixed the issue for my benefit. But if you let a “their” slip through in the place of a “there,” you are a complete moron. And if you are working online, commenters will let you know so. Then your boss will let you know that the commenters are saying so in case you didn’t see it yourself. Also, people will want to talk to you—outside of work—about grammar. Aside from the guy who called me “awkward, in a cute way,” I think the worst line I’ve heard was from the dude who asked my thoughts on the serial comma.

Nevertheless, those of us attracted to the job and who stay in it for a while, are special. In a good way. After all, as I once wrote in my farewell note to my colleagues at the L.A. Times, I saw the job as “readers’ advocate and writer’s champion.” In other words whether you create the story or see the finished product, we’ve got your back.

Read Lori Fradkin’s full essay at The Awl.

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