Blogs » The Daily Dose » Merrill Perlman and copy editing heaven.


Merill Perlman, a former New York Times director of copy editors, offered great advice on copy editing.

Who ever knew the world of copy editing was so vast?

The key, she says, is to remember to go from being the sender to becoming the receiver to better copy edit. Take off those reporter gloves every so often and remember who you are writing for. I've done this several times before. I have found myself taking a break and coming back and reading the story as if I were a reader.

Does this story interest me? Does the story leave me begging to know more? Did the reporter leave out any important information? Does this story make sense? Is it balanced?

Merrill also showed us how to deal with sources who talk using jargon. Being the health reporter, and I think this goes for any reporter, I have had my share of interviews with doctors which makes me step back and say, "Wait, run that by me one more time."

What needs to be done is you need to bring the source down to explain the situation or issue in layman's terms without insulting his or her intelligence.

Don't tell them, "You know, I really don't think our readers will understand that. I know I don't. Break this down for me."

Your sources are NOT there to do your job.

You need to play a little game, Merrill suggests.

Somehow, feeding them enough of their jargon back will slowly get them to bring it down a notch.

Another topic we talked about was training a reporter to always ask themselves "who is the reader."

I've never really asked this about my beat, but I can't wait to go back to work and put that question to good use.

Health issues affect a variety of readers, but knowing the demographics of my area, (let's say diabetes affects people 45 and older in my county) that will help me gear how to write the story and what information would be pertinent.

It was just a great day to remember that reporters are their own copy editors. They all need to realize it. I've realized it, but I feel I've learned to embrace it more.

I'll leave everyone with a quote from Merrill during our session.

One of the other fellows had wanted to add a question or talk about a topic that didn't pertain to what we were talking about in that moment, so he stopped himself.

Merrill says: "There is no sidetracking, it's all circular."

Thanks for the great presentation!

Oh, and here is a funny YouTube video about copy editing.