Times and trials of Annie Barker, Copy Editor

Photo Courtesy cikesdaola.blogspot.com

Photo Courtesy cikesdaola.blogspot.com

Annie Barker, Copy Editor

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Hello, I’m Annie Barker, the Copy Editor for the OHS Press. Being a student used to writing in MLA format, the switch to AP, what newspapers use, has been a journey. My job is seemingly never-ending, but all the hard work pays off when I see the finished copy of the newspaper at the end of each month. Here is some insight on the Copy Editor process and weird AP style rules.


The Process

Like the other journalists, I write one to two stories a month, but additionally I copy edit for the 24 member staff.  This means I can look at anywhere from 24 to 48+ articles a month. However, this isn’t so bad due to the four drafts before the copy editing process.

My job is a pretty straightforward gig. People give you their drafts and you read them. Simple. Well that’s how it’s supposed to work. At first things went smoothly, but with summer approaching and Senioritis taking hold, it’s becoming more difficult. After the fourth draft of the first story is completed, theoretically I would receive 24 stories in following couple of days. On average I get maybe five.

Then the cycle of drafts repeat for the second story, and after draft four has been completed that’s when it happens. A flood of drafts appear on my desk and I begin to wade my way through them. This isn’t altogether terrible. I can get through the drafts rather quickly. However, sometimes story two draft four is due the day before or the day of a late night.

A late night is when the journalists stay after school until eight on the “late” late night and five on the regular late night to layout the paper for printing. This proves to be a problem as we can’t start the majority of layout without the stories. The time between the end of fifth hour and about four o’clock can be summarized as a movie montage version of me in a deep focus reading around 20 drafts. Notice how I said 20. If you’ve been keeping track we’re now averaging 25 drafts at this point in my monthly journey. Throughout the late night I proceed to collect the remaining 23. Me, being the extremely assertive person that I am, not really, this goes over well. By the end of the first late night I’m pretty burnt out as sometimes I also layout a page either by myself or with a partner. After all this, people sometimes don’t make the edits I write down. “Eh it’s just one comma. What difference does it make?” Then those missing commas start to add up. A few days later the paper goes into print and certain students, you know who you are, play a game of Ispy for errors and very nicely point them out to me and other members of the staff. The cycle then repeats for every issue.


The Oxford Comma and other rules

There is a beautiful and terrible thing called “AP Style.”  AP Style makes sure that newspapers are consistent and easy to read. Ultimately at the beginning of the year I was given a book, which goes by the nickname “the bible,” written by the Associated Press that covers thousands of formatting rules. The most common questions I get asked for formatting are;

  1. Numbers: one through ten are written out
  2. Dates: There’s at least five different ways to write it out and it’s not very interesting
  3. Formatting titles of movies and other media : again I don’t think you care
  4. Should certain things have hyphens or be capitalized
  5. The Oxford Comma

For a brief stretch of time the Oxford Comma ruined my life. The OC is when you have a list of three things such as : “ She liked the colors red, green, and blue.” It’s the comma between “green” and “and.” I’ve used this comma before in general writing, but I didn’t know it’s name or the pain it would cause me. You see, the Oxford Comma isn’t used in journalism. The Okemos school system has ingrained in our minds that yes, you need to use it in everyday writing. However this made 60 percent of my copy-editing looking for this stupid comma. I began to see this thing everywhere to the point where I couldn’t read for pleasure. It was nothing big, just my mind would read the sentence as “ She liked the colors red, green oxford comma and blue.” Eventually the OHS Press stopped using it and I am proud to say I haven’t seen one in a draft for two months.



Although copy editing can be a stressful experience sometimes, I do enjoy it. I get to see everyone’s writing and see people grow as writers throughout the year. I can’t wait to be the Copy Editor again next year, except I’ll probably be taking this back when the next late night rolls around.