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Columbia Missourian

DEAR READER: Summertime brings picnics, family reunions and stylebook revisions

By Maggie Walter
August 25, 2012 | 6:00 a.m. CDT

Some activities always accompany a season: football in the fall, skiing in winter, gardening in spring and swimming in the summer.

But, here at the Missourian newsroom, there's another sure-fire summer activity as we annually revise the Columbia Missourian Stylebook.


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Somehow, a few years ago, that task landed squarely on my desk and has stayed there. I'm not saying it's the albatross of "The Rime of the Ancient Mariner" fame, but none of my colleagues through the years have even made the slightest motion toward taking it away.

I'm not sure I would give it up without a fight, but there are days — believe me — when I would be perfectly content to never weigh or consider another style rule. That generally only occurs, when after a few hours of intense conversation, concentration and negotiations, the computer crashes, eating hours of work.

Many of the classes offered by the Missouri School of Journalism use The Missourian Stylebook, but it's essential to the work we do at and the Missourian.

"Save early and often" is the mantra offered by Andrew Jenkins, the graduate student who joined in the work this year. His attention to detail and focus on the work was remarkable. So, all in all, it wasn't too onerous. Of course, we also had snacks.

There were only 34 new entries in the alphabetized styleguide, which covers most news usages. We also beefed up the style entries in the sports section. Many copy editors don't follow all sports with the intensity of sports reporters and editors, so, to help the universal editing desk in its work we more than doubled the number of entries.

And then there was the switch to the Southeastern Conference — you might have heard about that. Out with Big 12 and in with SEC was the order of one longish day. It's amazing how many references and citations we found.

There was also a week of updating the newspaper design section. The bulk of that work was completed in the spring semester, and Will Guldin, a graduate student in design, did heavy lifting on that section before Andrew and I started our nitpicking eyeballing of it.

Check, check, check and check it again. And, then it was deadline day, and we pushed the publish button. Until next year.

And, yes, I'm open to bidders to take it off my desk, but somehow, I'm thinking I'm not likely to need to set up those Disney-like crowd control barriers.

As often happens though, I awoke in the middle of the night after it was too late to make more changes and remembered that we forgot to change the Boone County Fairgrounds entry. It's now known as the Central Missouri Event Center, Home of the Boone County Fair. Just so you know, we're going to refer to it as the Central Missouri Event Center on first citation and event center or center on second reference. We're likely to call it the fairgrounds during the annual fair. 

To keep track of changes from one revision season to the next, we have a poster-sized paper taped to a wall with the heading: I respectfully disagree. It's open to anyone to post suggested changes and additional entries. The Boone fairgrounds entry is already written there. I'm sure there will be more — but hopefully not too soon.

In the meantime, we always get a lot of help in editing from our participants in the Show Me the Errors contest.

In July, there were 20 participants who submitted 52 corrections. Jim Terry, an art history professor at Stephens College, again led the charge with 26 submissions. The winner of the drawing for the contest prizes — a Missourian T-shirt and a copy of "The Great Typo Hunt" — is Fritz Otweiler. He had two submissions.

Maggie Walter is an associate professor at the Missouri School of Journalism and an interactive news editor at During a recent vacation, my two former college roommates, who are also in the editing and teaching world, and I made of game of  finding as many public typos as we possibly could. And in the spirit of "The Great Typo Hunt," we gently pointed them out to folks. Most everyone got it, laughed a bit and said something to the effect: Guess we should fix that. But, not so at a distillery with the words "mens" and "womens" etched in steel plates outside the restrooms. Repeated attempts to explain the errors were met with blank stares — they just didn't understand what was wrong. Guess you just can't fix everything.