Editing is essential to clear communication. Editors transform muddled language into lucid copy. As Mark Twain said, “the difference between the almost right word and the right word is really a large matter — it's the difference between the lightning bug and the lightning.” Editing is evolving as journalists navigate fast-changing technology. One certainty: Mastering editing skills is critical, no matter what medium delivers your work.

This book is designed to help you learn practical editing skills essential to virtually any career. It will help you become a better writer and communicator and will show you how to improve the work of others.


main topics

  1. The Role of Editors
  2. The Evolving Copy Editor
  3. Grammar Basics
  4. Style Basics
  5. Accuracy and Fairness
  6. Legal and Ethical Issues
  7. Editing Language
  1. Big Picture Editing
  2. Headlines for Print and Web
  3. Using Photos and Graphics
  4. Understanding Design, Story Play
  5. Working With Writers
  6. Editing Different Media
  7. Editing Yourself
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Chapter 1 - The Role of Editors


Overview Johannes Gutenberg transformed the way the world communicates. His 15th-century printing press and associoted technologies made it easier to reach larger audiences. Print quickly became the standard to distribute material ranging from Cavalier poems to revolutionary manifestos. Gutenberg's invention changed the world.

The Internet has been equally transforming. Ideas rocket around the world in seconds. Biogs and websites have even been credited with helping start revolutions to wrest power from dictators and establish democracies. Writers and thinkers distribute their views without a publisher or a press. This textbook illustrates the impact of the Web. Students read and learn electronically- no books to carry or lose.

In 2010, for the first time, more Americans said they get their news online than from newspapers. Their shifting habits forced print and broadcast organizations to deliver news online or be left behind.

In turn, the switch to digital dramatically changed the role of editors.

Editors continue to uphold traditional journalism standards such as fairness, and they continue to provide quality control for readers and viewers. But they must think in fresh ways to make best use of new technology. Readers demand it, if polls are any indication. As for editors, adapting to digital gives them more ways to tell stories, more potential readership and, in some ways, more headc,ches.

Flash Cards

Flash Card

Interactive Activities


In this chapter, we learned that good copy editors go beyond checking basic grammar, spelling and punctuation. They also use logic and critical thinking skills to question copy and detect errors.

In this exercise, you will get to test your critical thinking skills. Use logic to find the errors in the following examples.


In this chapter, we examined how grammar provides clarity in writing. Without proper grammar, language can be confusing. Words can have multiple meanings. Readers are confused and may stop reading. Although grammar and punctuation rules may seem daunting, most errors stem from 20 common problems.

In this exercise, identify and correct the mistake In each item.


In this chapter we learned that Journalists around the world use the AP Stylebook to provide consistency and a common language for their readers. Although it's Impossible to memorize the nearly 400 pages of the AP Stylebook, you should be familiar with the most common style rules.

In this exercise, identify and correct the AP style error in each brief story.

Learning Objectives

After reading this chapter, your will:

  • Understand how editors' jobs hove changed as they deliver news and information aver multiple platforms.
  • Know why everybody needs to think like an editor, regardless of official roles.
  • Recognize the characteristics of strong editors.
  • Understand new ways editors engage or connect with their audiences in a two-way conversation.
  • Learn what editors across the country say rookie editors should do ta succeed.

Chapter 1: What Makes a Good Story?

Editors make dozens of decisions every day. Among them: Deciding what to cover and what makes a good story. With limited resources, editors cannot cover everything going on in their communities.

In a one-page, single-spaced paper, describe what makes a good story. Be specific Recall a story you remember in the news recently. Why do you remember it? What makes it stand out in your mind? How did the story affect you? Read this explanation of news values and tell me which news values you believe are most important in evaluc,ting what to caver.

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This was honestly the first time since I went to college that I have read every assigned chapter. There was just a lot of real world stuff in the book. Stuff that I need to know when I graduate.

  – University of Nebraska-Lincoln student after completing a
course using "Everybody's an Editor" by Sue Burzynski Bullard