Who’s Your Copy Editor?

This whole thinking started innocently enough.  During my morning read, I ran across this article.  9 Word Cloud Generators That Aren’t Wordle.

I had three immediate thoughts…

  • I bet this once was a post itemizing 10 Word Cloud Generators and #1 had actually been Wordle;
  • You can never have too many links to a particular genre of web software for “Plan Bs” when “Plan As” fail for whatever reason;
  • Creating Word Clouds would be a terrific first few days of school activity to see where the students’ priorities might be for expectations for the upcoming year.  You could test prior knowledge, set class rules, check understanding, …

Now, my friend @LindaAragoni (who I’ve never met but I hope to some day) shot back with a reference to Tagxedo.  My initial thought was “Huh?  I’m sure it was in there.”  So, I rush back to the original article and, sure enough, she was correct.

This excellent utlity, which I’ve used many times, was missing.  Son of a gun.

I think that’s why I avoid writing blog posts about “Top 10 Ways to Do This” or “10 Best Utilities for” or …, because there’s always a #11 that really should be on the list.  And, perhaps a #12.

Quickly, my oversight turned into a discussion about writing and editing which is an area that I hack at.  I don’t pretend to be a writer of any sort.  I just have a blog and share my thoughts as they happen.  But, in the real world, there are editors that may well have caught that oversight.  Right?

As usual, she was deeply insightful.  It’s not like I’m some great language genius.  In Grade 13, I took 3 Maths, 3 Sciences, and grudgingly 1 English.  Although I only felt like I needed the first six courses, I did think that more English couldn’t hurt.  Throughout university, I wrote my share of papers – you know “these are smarter people than me and they say that” so it supports my thesis.  I’ll confess I got a great deal more from solving a mathematics problems or writing a computer program to solve a problem.
However, I’m a big supporter of blogging.  I try to do it for myself just to prove that it can be done.  It is, for me, a different type of activity and I do enjoy it.  I certainly never took a course on “how to” blog.  Like most I suspect, I learned it on the streets.
But I recognize that there are great examples that take the practice and put it into action.
  • I read various blogs and look for a style that I find comfortable.  Probably the style that I’d like to use as a guide are David Pogue‘s posts;
  • The technical end for the formal language is well supported by Linda’s “You Can Teach Writing;”
  • But I also recognize that blog writing is something new and somewhat different than traditional composition.  To that end, Ronnie Burt and Sue Waters at TheEdublogger write in the new way and I think model how to use the blogging platform at its best;
  • Danika Barker’s professional Barker Blog combines career professionalism and a delightful sense of humour that makes you hang onto every post to the very end;
  • and what would a computer mediated medium be without software.  I do rely on the WordPress proofreader to help out before I go to press.  I am also frustrated by the number of times that it complains that I’m passive in my writing.

In fact, I could go on and on with the people who impact my writing – I learn something from virtually every blog that I read.

When blogging is introduced into the classroom, I hope that it’s not “just another form of writing”.  It is something different.  It really is an amalgam of style, impact, humour, communication, and writing effectiveness.  There are people who make a living doing this.

And yet, just when I think I understand, a moment comes along like this morning.

Who’s Your Copy Editor?

Who’s that extra set of eyes that checks your content for accuracy and completeness?  I think that perhaps the list of skills needs to have another attribute.  As a blogger, you become immersed with your present project and it’s entirely possible to miss one or more key points.  Is the missing component the ability to have an out of body experience and content check with a fresh set of eyes?  What did you miss?  What did you overlook?  What did you not treat fairly?

I know that my work flow which I’ve described many times involves all the good stuff I learned in school.  Brainstorming, mindmapping, outlining, writing, reviewing, previewing, etc.  I think I’ve got better as a writer now that I schedule for posting rather than just posting when it’s ready.  It gives me an extra chance or two to proofread before it goes live.  Is that enough?  Is there another step that needs to be done so that I become my own copy editor?

I think Linda identified an important point in our back and forth yesterday morning.  With the disappearance of copy editors professionally and the growth of the home writer, is the ability to be your own copy editor a skill that needs to be learned?


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