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The Copy Shop: Make no mistake, we make mistakes – breaking the news on Copy’s biggest blunders

(Nicole Nobre/Daily Bruin)

By Rayna Salam

February 7, 2020 7:07 pm

Correction: The original version of this article misspelled Kerckhoff Hall.

This post was updated Feb. 12 at 2:53 p.m.

Welcome to the Copy Shop – the platform for members of Daily Bruin Copy to rant about the Oxford comma, discuss sensitivity in mass media and attempt to generally demystify the mind-boggling and all-too-misunderstood world of the copy editor.

The Daily Bruin makes mistakes.

By the time a story pops up on your screen or appears in print, it will have gone through several rounds of edits. There are generally three edits within sections and three within Copy – a rimmer, a slotter and a proofer.

With all of those checks in place, it can seem like a miracle that errors still slip through the cracks.

Copy editors are responsible for putting out the newspaper every night. It’s hard to get an idea of what that really means when you’re looking at a finished story or a paper, but looking at what we didn’t do hopefully can give readers a better idea.

There are some things that evade even the most diligent copy editors at The Bruin. The last part of a copy editing shift can go until 1 a.m. or later each night of production, and despite our efforts to get every little thing right – layout, spelling, accuracy, readability, good headlines, correct captions – we’ve overlooked some pretty glaring things.

Here are some of the biggest, funniest, cringiest copy mistakes we’ve made in the recent past that haunt us to this day.

Nov. 7, 2019

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This mistake was definitely meme-able. The Copy and Design sections are responsible for making sure photo caption length goes about three-fourths of the length of the photo and this night, no one caught the extra words (10, to be exact) at the end.

Jan. 24, 2018

Screen Shot 2020-02-07 at 12.13.58 AM.png

Sometimes, Design leaves sweet notes for copy editors placing the text in the layout.

Once in a blue moon, the world gets to read them too.

These mistakes are things the proofer is bound to catch – in theory. Two proofers come in at 9:30 p.m. to review the entire paper as you would see it in print the next day. Slotters place copy-edited stories in a layout, courtesy of the Design section, and lastly, proofers circle anything out of the ordinary.

These mistakes are usually small style errors and inconsistencies, or overarching issues like misspellings or sensitivity and bias issues.

But when was the last time you read an entire print newspaper front to back?

Nov. 14, 2018

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This is another mighty error a slot editor on shift made and the proofers didn’t catch. Headlines are arguably a copy editor’s most important job. The Washington Post reported 59% of people repost articles on social media without clicking the link – that’s a lot of weight on the headline.

Sept. 18, 2019

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With the power of headline writing comes great responsibility. Sometimes, the muse strikes and the perfect pun or device fits the story.

In a story about conservationists listening to gibbon songs, we thought we had that pun.

Turns out gibbons are not monkeys – they’re classified as apes. The researcher reached out and asked to clarify that distinction, but it wasn’t a correction because we never said gibbons were monkeys. That was a humble reminder to double-check our puns!

Oct. 2, 2019

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Wording headlines can also be an exacting process. In a story about the ruling of the Harvard admissions process, the headline was inaccurate.

As a reader pointed out, the admissions process was ruled constitutional, not the lawsuit. It is important when summarizing stories like this that we be especially careful with our wording, especially in print headlines, in which we’re limited by the headline length in the layout.

Nov. 25, 2019

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There are some corrections that even writers, editors and copy editors put together can’t foresee. In the article, “UCLA mathematician helps prove simplified equation discovered by physicists,” a paraphrased section attributed to mathematics professor Terence Tao stated eigenvalues are the magnitudes of eigenvectors.

In fact, eigenvalues are scalars multiplied with eigenvectors.

University researchers often give writers jargon-heavy quotes to decipher when Daily Bruin covers their research. When writers paraphrase a direct quote about a technical subject, the meaning can sometimes get bungled, and the experts who read the story certainly know when the story gets it right or not.

For this story, the correction was sent in by a UCLA teaching assistant in the math department.

[Related: The Copy Shop: How we face the facts and fix the falsehoods]

Our job is to care deeply about every small thing.

That’s why when we catch a misspelled name or wrong score in a sports wrap box at midnight, it feels like we’ve saved the world.

At the same time, we have to let go and laugh at our mistakes sometimes. Putting out a polished paper five days a week means there might be an occasional wordswordswordswordswordswordswordswordswordswords, and that’s okay.

With copy editing comes the inevitable 2 a.m. delirium when everything we read is alphabet soup and we’re in a rush to send the PDF of the paper to the printer, where 9,000 copies will be printed to be distributed the next morning.

There are more stories to tell in the roundup of our biggest mistakes, and there will be more mistakes to come in the future.

But in the meantime, we’ll be in Kerckhoff Hall 118 until the early morning, Sunday through Thursday, trying to make sure they don’t happen.

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Rayna Salam | Copy Assistant Editor
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