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Giles Coren gets angry about sub-editing

Some writers get rather upset if sub-editors change their copy, as this sweary rant from Giles Coren demonstrates:

When you’re winding up a piece of prose, metre is crucial. Can’t you hear? Can’t you hear that it is wrong? It’s not fucking rocket science. It’s fucking pre-GCSE scansion.

Then again, Roland White has a different view:

Subeditors are the people who correct our mistakes. All journalism is done in a hurry, so it’s inevitable that mistakes are mad. Subeditors are our safety net. They make sure that copy fits, see that our words make some vague sort of sense and finally they write the headlice.

They are hot stuff on split infinitives, can advise on the correct way to spell Gadaffi and are virtually the only people outside Burkina Faso who care that it used to be known as Upper Volta. Imagine an English teacher with a flick knife and you’ve got the general idea.

I’ve had the odd thing butchered in editing (not by anyone I currently work with, I hasten to add). The worst was a piece for the Sunday Mail where the only original word that survived the sub-editing process was “the”; I’ve had subtle gags ruined by unnecessary exclamation marks; and I’ve been the recipient of sub-editing that takes the same approach to fixing copy as Father Ted did to fixing a little dent in a car.

Generally, though, I’m with A.A. Gill:

The joy of being a hack is that there is a back room of people far cleverer, more experienced and adept than I working to make me look clever, experienced and adept. If on occasion I fail to do so, naturally it’s their fault.