How to behave

December 4, 2003
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Phillip Blanchard offers etiquette tips for copy editors.

Q. I’m a young copy editor on a desk with experienced hands and sometimes I don’t know how to behave. Do you have any tips? — Anonymous in L.A.



A. Sure. We’re overdue for a review of copy-desk etiquette anyhow:


* Don’t complain to the slot about a headline change unless the change makes it wrong.


* While you’re at it, don’t complain, period.


* Don’t make a major production about errors you find in copy or on proof. Just fix them.

* Don’t interrupt a colleague’s discussion, unless it concerns a story assigned to you.


* Don’t assume you have the standing to begin open debate with a colleague. Keep your challenges to private messages.


* Although mindless chatter has a long copy-desk tradition, learn to control it. When in doubt, STFU.


* Remember that respect is earned.


* Another clich?: Don’t miss the forest for the goddamn trees.

Gee, I’m guilty of every one of these things, almost every day. Be glad you don’t sit next to me.

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