Copycat: Copy Editing Because No One Else Will

28 Jun
Copycat

Copycat

HAS anyone else looked at articles in the South Asian press and wondered why no one caught all those typos, formatting errors, and just plain bad English that seems to afflict so many of them? Not to mention shoddy reporting and badly written prose. Surely there are copy editors loitering around newspaper offices, with red pencil in hand, just waiting for an incorrect spelling or a dangling clause to put to rights? An editor somewhere who recognizes that sentences must have verbs and to send the writer in question back to the computer to fill in the blanks? How do they sleep at night, these sub-editors/copy-editors, proofreaders and editors, seeing the most basic rules of grammar violated in so many (albeit sometimes imaginative) ways? Somewhere, the souls of Strunk & White are shriveling up in horror that unedited, illiterate reams of newsprint are making their way onto breakfast tables and iPad screens in various parts of the Indian subcontinent. (Or maybe not.)

Since there seems to be a vacancy for a decent editor, I have decided to fill it. Thus, every so often, when I come across something particularly illiterate—or when you, dear reader, send me something you would like to see the way it was meant to be written—I will whip out my red pencil and attempt to cross, correct and craft the offending article into shape. (As one unnamed South Asian author said, “Nerd Heaven!”)

Here’s my first attempt. Just for shock value, take a look at the article as was originally written. Did you sigh in exasperated recognition? Then read on for my edits (additions in caps and sometimes in bold):

Fitness firm sacks rape victim after FIR

NEW DELHI: YESTERDAY/INSERT DATE A 24-year-old woman, who works as a physical trainer AT TKTKTK, has alleged that she was raped twice in the changing room of a gym at the Delhi Development Authority sports complex in Sector 11, Dwarka, first by the manager and then by another trainer.

Both the accused, [[WHO ARE THESE NAMELESS ACCUSED? INSERT NAMES AND AGES HERE]], WHO ARE FROM Meerut, BUT currently LIVE in west Delhi, have been remanded to 14 days’ judicial custody. THEY WERE ARRESTED ON [[INSERT DATE HERE]].

Shockingly, the victim WAS FIRED by [[INSERT NAME OF HER EMPLOYER HERE]], the private fitness training company WHERE SHE WORKS, after the incidents [[OR THE POLICE COMPLAINT?]], along with the accused, [[WHO ALSO WORKED THERE?]].

GET QUOTE FROM THE COMPANY HERE ABOUT WHY THEY FIRED THE VICTIM AND THE ACCUSED. GET QUOTES FROM THE VICTIM’S FAMILY IF POSSIBLE.

ALSO GET A QUOTE FROM THE DELHI DEVELOPMENT AUTHORITY ON THE SAFETY OF THEIR SPORTS COMPLEXES AND FROM A GYM MEMBER WHO USES THAT PARTICULAR COMPLEX, AND PERHAPS A FELLOW TRAINER, ON WHETHER OR NOT THEY FEEL SAFE WORKING OUT THERE.

The woman, a resident of Mangolpuri [[IN TIMBUKTU? OR A NEIGHBOURHOOD OF DELHI?]], is separated from her husband and has filed for divorce [[HOW ARE THESE DETAILS RELEVANT? THEY IMPLY THAT HER MARITAL STATUS HAS SOMETHING TO DO WITH HER ASSAULTS. CUT]]. Sources [[WHO ARE THESE MYSTERIOUS SOURCES? GIVE US SOME NAMES PLEASE]] claimed she landed [[USE ANOTHER WORD—TOO COLLOQUIAL]] the job through a friend, another gym trainer AT [[INSERT NAME OF EMPLOYER HERE]] who was a friend of Ajay [[INSERT LAST NAME HERE]], one of the accused.

The police [[WHO FROM THE POLICE? USE THE PERSON’S NAME HERE AND INCLUDE HIS OR HER JOB TITLE AND RANK]] said the woman was transferred from the Paschim Vihar branch of the fitness centre TO THE DWARKA BRANCH on June 15 to undergo training as an instructor, [[BECAUSE….?]]. According to THE POLICE complaint SHE FILED, ON JUNE 19, Ajay [[INSERT LAST NAME HERE]], A TRAINER AT THE PASCHIM VIHAR SPORTS COMPLEX, approached her around 11 am on June 19 with a white powder after she had complained of a headache. [[ADD DETAILS—WHAT DID AJAY SAY THE WHITE POWDER WAS?]] The victim reportedly felt dizzy after having the powder [[IN A GLASS OF WATER? INHALING IT LIKE COCAINE?]] and went to THE changing room [[WAS IT A WOMEN’S CHANGING ROOM? A UNISEX ONE? WAS IT EMPTY?]] to sit DOWN. The accused followed her there and raped her. [[DID SHE SCREAM? WHY DID NO ONE HEAR HER? IF THE ASSAULT TOOK PLACE IN THE MORNING, SURELY THERE WAS SOMEONE AROUND WHO WOULD HAVE HEARD. CANVAS THE GYM TO SEE IF THERE WERE ANY OTHER STAFFERS OR GYM MEMBERS AROUND; PERHAPS A JANITOR HEARD? AND THEN WHEN DID THE MANAGER OF THE COMPLEX RAPE HER? HOW IS HE INVOLVED? HOW DID SHE LEAVE AFTER THE ASSAULT OR ASSAULTS? WAS SHE THREATENED TO KEEP QUIET OR WAS SHE ALLOWED TO LEAVE?]]

“The victim said out of fear she did not tell anyone about the attack,” claimed one of her acquaintances [[WHO IS THIS ACQUAINTANCE? WHAT WAS SHE SCARED OF? AND THEN WHAT PROMPTED HER TO COME FORWARD AND FILE A COMPLAINT? DID SOMETHING HAPPEN TO MAKE HER STOP BEING AFRAID?]].

According to the complaint, the victim’s mother was threatened by the accused and her boyfriend beaten up when they came to the DDA complex [[THESE DETAILS NEED MORE EXPLANATION—WHEN DID THEY COME TO THE SPORTS COMPLEX? DID SHE ASK THEM TO FETCH HER AFTER SHE WAS ATTACKED? IS THIS ON JUNE 19 OR ANOTHER DATE? WHO THREATENED THE MOTHER? WHO BEAT UP THE BOYFRIEND? WHAT ARE THE NAMES OF THE MOTHER AND BOYFRIEND? TRY TO GET A QUOTE FROM THEM]]. The boyfriend was taken to Deen Dayal Upadhyay Hospital [[THE CLOSEST HOSPITAL, PERHAPS?)]] for treatment [[FOR WHAT? A SPLIT LIP? SOMETHING MORE SERIOUS?]] after which an FIR [[A FIRST INFORMATION REPORT]] was registered [[BY THE BOYFRIEND? PLEASE DON’T LEAVE US IN SUSPENSE!]].

“After getting the medical report of the victim, the police filed an FIR of rape against the duo and they were arrested,” said the police official [[WHICH POLICE OFFICIAL? NAME, JOB TITLE AND RANK HERE PLEASE]].

According to the DDA officials, the contract for maintaining and running the gym had been awarded to Himanshu Bhardwaj, director of SAB fitness and training centre [[THIS INFORMATION NEEDS TO COME HIGHER UP. ALSO WE NEED MORE INFORMATION ABOUT SAB FITNESS—FOR INSTANCE, ON THEIR WEBSITE THEY ADVERTISE THEIR SERVICES TO RUN GYMS OWNED BY OTHERS. HOW MANY SUCH ARRANGEMENTS DO THEY HAVE? WHO’S LIABLE IF SOMETHING HAPPENS AT ONE OF THESE LOCATIONS? HAVE THEY EVER FACED COMPLAINTS BEFORE OF INAPPROPRIATE BEHAVIOUR? WHAT KIND OF SCREENING PROCESS DO PHYSICAL TRAINERS GO THROUGH BEFORE THEY ARE HIRED? HOW MANY TRAINERS DO THEY HIRE? WHAT’S THE RATIO OF MEN TO WOMEN? ETC]]. The accused and the victim were employees of this fitness center.

“I don’t know if these allegations are true but the contradictory statements given by the woman indicate that the trainer is being framed. I don’t want to comment further as the matter is under investigation,” Bhardwaj said. [[DON’T LET HIM GET AWAY WITH A STATEMENT LIKE THAT—WHAT ARE THE “CONTRADICTORY STATEMENTS”? I DON’T SEE ANY CONTRADICTORY STATEMENTS SO FAR—ONLY INCOMPLETE ONES. WHY WOULD THE TRAINER BE FRAMED? ALSO, YOU GET THIS QUOTE FROM HIM WHICH EXPRESSES HIS DISBELIEF THAT HIS TRAINER’S ACCUSATIONS ARE FALSE, BUT DON’T QUESTION HIM ON WHY SHE WAS FIRED?]]

He said the victim HAS BEEN EMPLOYED for the past six months, while the accused were working for him for around a year.

NOTES: THE ONLY QUOTES IN THIS STORY ARE FROM AN UNNAMED POLICE OFFICIAL, AN UNNAMED SOURCE WHO COMMENTS ON THE VICTIM’S STATE OF MIND, AND THE EMPLOYER WHO FIRED THE VICTIM AND THE ACCUSED. NO QUOTES FROM THE VICTIM OR SOMEONE FROM THE VICTIM’S FAMILY, NO IDENTIFIED FRIENDS OR FAMILY, NO QUOTES FROM A WOMEN’S ORGANIZATION/RAPE SHELTER, OR A LAWYER, OR A UNION REP, ON WHETHER HER FIRING WAS EVEN CONSTITUTIONAL.


No offense to the writers and editors at the fine publication where this article originally appeared—my aim with the Copycat post (this is the first one but hopefully there will be more to come) is to make a virtual contribution to journalism in the region where I first learned to write and edit, not to single out any particular person or paper.

And if you come across any articles that are begging for the Copycat treatment, do send them my way via the comments section below or through the Contact form.

4 Responses to “Copycat: Copy Editing Because No One Else Will”

  1. Jayshree Bajoria 29 June 2011 at 6:54 AM #

    Bravo! A novel and brilliant idea. I hope you continue with these posts. Also, I think this is great in how it features your work…almost acts like the best resume there can be :-). Hear hear editors!

  2. Shaunak 29 June 2011 at 7:23 AM #

    I remember a stand-up comedy bit I once saw, where the comic joked about the NY Post. Said something to the extent of reading articles in the Post is like someone randomly stopping you in the streets and yelling tidbits of the news at you.
    This feels kind of like that. Too funny!!

  3. Shaunak 29 June 2011 at 7:30 AM #

    BTW it seems like the original article has been edited since you posted this blog. Think your post had anything to do with it? 😉

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