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Columbia Missourian

DEAR READER: Editing conference reaffirms Show Me the Errors contest

By Maggie Walter
April 5, 2011 | 12:00 p.m. CDT

COLUMBIA — The national American Copy Editors Society conference was an oasis for all things related to copy editing.

A colleague and I traveled with six students to Phoenix in mid-March to attend the event, and we came away with renewed enthusiasm for our work. The students were happy to meet many of the movers and shakers in the editing world and for making plenty of contacts for future job searches.

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Congratulations go to Josh Barone, a senior journalism major, who won a $1,000 ACES scholarship for editing. The other students who attended are Jessica Bigazda, Caitlin Steffen, Michelle Gao, Hannah Ritchie and Kevin Deane.

Nick Jungman, the Knight visiting professional and senior editor for transition at ColumbiaMissourian.com and the Missourian, and I presented “The Transition: Creating an Interactive Copy Desk.” It was a session devoted to the recent changes in the Missourian newsroom designed to emphasize a Web-first focus. The audience seemed to be fully engaged, so much so that we were answering so many questions that it was a race to finish the presentation.

Other presenters included Bill Walsh, a multiplatform editor at The Washington Post and author of “Lapsing into a Comma” and “The Elephants of Style”; Merrill Perlman, former director of copy desks at the New York Times and now a private consultant; Henry Fuhrmann, assistant managing editor for copy desks, the library and standards at the Los Angeles Times; Rich Holden, executive director of the Dow Jones News Fund; David Brindley, copy desk director for National Geographic; Marty Steffens, the Society of American Business Writers and Editors chair at MU; and about 40 others known for their professional and academic prowess in the world of copy editing.

In other words, it was a love fest for copy editors.

It also reaffirmed our commitment to making ColumbiaMissourian.com as error free as possible, primarily through our own efforts but also with the help of participants in the Show Me the Errors contest.

Although we still have a ways to go toward perfection, there was a marked improvement in the number of suggested corrections in March over February. In March there were 102 entries; February’s tally was 139, which was a considerable drop from January’s 200 count. Not too many things improve by 50 percent in two months time, so excuse me if I revel about that improvement.

Of equal interest is that the number of participants — 72 — was the same for both February and March.

Jim Terry, an art history professor at Stephens College who has been a steady contributor to the contest, racked up another win — his fifth in six months.

In February, Terry submitted 67 suggested corrections; in March, that number dropped to 45.

In a telephone interview Monday night, Terry echoed a comment he made after winning the February contest. He said, “I’m still finding that it’s harder to find mistakes, so good for you.”

Terry said he favors reading opinions, sports and local news and as a result of the contest, “I’m probably reading more than I would otherwise.”

The second place winner for March is Sarah Jo Alban with 17 entries.

You, too, can be a participant and possibly the winner in the Show Me the Errors contest. The prizes are a Missourian mug and a hardcover copy of Roy Peter Clark’s book “The Glamour of Grammar: A Guide to the Magic and Mystery of Practical English.”

Maggie Walter is an associate professor at the Missouri School of Journalism and a night news editor at ColumbiaMissourian.com. She plans to take a closer look at the Yahoo! Style Guide, co authored by Chris Barr, another panelist at ACES.