One of the most important and exacting jobs on any
publication is that of written copy being given the final
professional touch of accuracy. This job of catching and
correcting inaccuracies before they can be printed and
distributed is called copy editing.
Readers may have a high regard for a newspaper
that is carefully edited, but they quickly lose respect for
one that is sloppy and full of errors.
The copy. editor of both civilian and Navy
publications represents the last line of defense against
incorrect copy reaching the reader. It is the copy editors
job to make sure copy is not printed unless it meets
certain standards. The copy editor is the guardian of both
style and accuracy.
Always on the alert for questionable facts,
ambiguous statements and violations of office policy,
the copy editor must catch errors in grammar, spelling,
syntax, punctuation, capitalization, and so forth; cutout
words or sentences that are not needed; and add copy
when necessary for clarity, emphasis or continuity.
Another responsibility of the copy editor is to
restore objectivity to a story in places where a writer
may have editorialized, quoted out of context or inserted
an opinion without attribution to a source or pertinent
authority. Also, the copy editor is constantly alert for
statements of a libelous or slanderous nature. (Libel and
slander are covered in Chapter 10.)
The copy editor of a civilian newspaper has an
additional function of assigning headlines for the edited
stories. Navy copy editors, unless they are editing stories
for use in ship or station newspapers, have no
responsibilities in this area. They could hardly be
expected to know the styles, formats and individual
editorial needs of all the newspapers that receive news
releases from a public affairs office. It is, however,
sometimes appropriate to put a brief heading on a story
to identify its subject readily.
Like any typical, beginning newswriter, the
neophyte JO is dismayed to see his literary
masterpiece chopped up, pasted back together again
and scored with the copy editors pencil. Nevertheless,
two minds are usually better than one. Most experienced
writers will admit that the final result, despite its
mangled appearance, is abetter piece of writing.
Security is of the utmost importance in the armed
forces. The responsibility for security lies with every
person who, in any way, handles a story, but the copy
editor sometimes represents the last defense against a
possible violation. If you have doubts about the security
classification of any information you receive, check it
with your security officer.
This chapter acquaints you with the standard
symbols and style used by the copy editor and explains
the procedures, rules and guidelines of copy editing. The
basic pattern of news style in this chapter follows the
style of The Associated Press and United Press
International. Most newspapers in the United States
now use this style. The recommended guide for
preparing military news is the latest version of The
Associated Press Stylebook and Libel Manual.
LEARNING OBJECTIVE: Identify the basic
guidelines of copy editing.
Copy editing follows a set system of procedures. To
be absolutely accurate, you should read each story in the
Read the story quickly to grasp its meaning and
note its arrangement.
Read the story more slowly and more thoroughly
to correct every mistake and to add or delete
material as necessary.
Read the story again to check the copy editors
The final check is also intended to make sure that
no new errors occurred in copy editing and that the story
If the story contains too many mistakes and it
appears obvious that copy editing will not improve it,
the story goes back to the originating JO for rewriting,
or in the case of copy received from outside sources, to