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Wednesday, May 8, 2013

‘Vigilante Copy Editor’ | Correcting errors in signs: Good or bad?

The New York Times has published a mildly provocative video on its website about some copy-editing corrections on information placards for sculptures at the Pratt Institute in Brooklyn, New York. The corrections I saw in the video are indeed correct, and they're done simply without using hideous colors or huge strokes of the permanent maker. 

I called the video "mildly provocative" because it first notes that the editing marks are a form of vandalism. Yet the narrator expresses approval of the vandalism, even saying it improves the artworks. 

The video includes a short interview with the park curator, who explains why the placards include "typos." And by what he does not say, the curator apparently approves of the editing. 

I have mixed feelings. First, I'm disappointed--appalled, actually--that the curator (or his colleagues) allowed production and posting of the placards without any apparent copy editing in advance. He seems so nonchalant about it in the video. Would he feel the same way about "errors" (if there are any) in creation of the sculptures? 

But, second, I appreciate that the after-the-fact editing is done subtly. It doesn't try to draw attention to itself, unlike the "artistic" vandalism we see often on the sides of buildings. The video includes examples.

But besides correcting the English, the copy edits don't enhance the artwork itself; it stands alone and apart from the placards ... and looks good.

I'm curious about publication of this video by the New York Times. A short article accompanies the video, but it doesn't repeat the narration in the video or descriptions of the video images. So I wonder how the printed newspaper dealt with the key information of the video. Did it just provide a link for more information? Or did it even appear in the printed edition?

The New York Times article is featured today, May 8, in my daily online paper, Garbl's Style: Write Choices, available at the Editorial style tab above and by free email subscription.

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