a couple of weeks ago, the New York Times published a Q&A with their head copy editor, Merrill Perlman. unlike the flood of questions put to, say, the editor of the Style section (such as, no joke, "why is this section so gay?"), poor Merrill only gets to answer three: the apostrophe-S conundrum, the serial comma, and what the heck do copy editors do anyway?
the first two of those questions are, if I may be blunt, boring old retreads, though Merrill does a good job of addressing them without punching the question-askers in the face. It's the third question (which is the first she answers) that is, in its way, interesting. Here's one of the many superhero attributes of copy editors that Merrill tells us about:
They have great instincts for sniffing out suspicious or incorrect facts or things that just don't make sense in context.what a useful thing to bring to the table! it is always nice to have someone around who has a good eye for nonsensibility. take, for example, this sentence:
For breaking news, a copy editor may have less than an hour to read 1,000 words and do everything the article needs.(It can be even less!)less than less than an hour? whoa. negative time. either copyeditors possess, along with sniffery, twilight-zone-esque timestopping abilities that i imagine many world governments would like to get their hands on, or else maybe Merrill could use a copyeditor of her own.
i won't even comment on the necessity of a space before that open parenthesis. nope. not a word.
and for those of you about to hit me back on Merrill's behalf with an indictment of my capitalization practices, may i preempt you by directing you here?