What does a sub-editor do?

That’s one of the most common search phrases that bring people to this blog. The boring answer is: they cut copy to fit space, correct spellings and grammar, change copy to fit house style, check facts are correct, write headlines and proofread. For the web, they also source pictures, write captions and credits, add links and optimise for search engines. Yada yada. More things too, such as poking tardy journos, laying out pages, clarifying meaning, finding missing information and sometimes rejecting articles.

But mostly, and this is the fun bit, they stop great big boobs like these below from ending up in published copy. These were donated by a mysterious anonymous source at a national paper, and I’ve thrown in a couple. Feel free to contribute your own (or email me if you’d rather donate anonymously).

“He took over in a bloodless coup, which left 100 dead.”

“Hopes for a negotiated end to the crisis were dashed last week when Saleh suddenly returned from Saudi Arabia, where he had spent three months recovering from an assassination.”

“… All Saints Church in Torquay, where ‘Queen of Crime’ Agatha Christie was baptised and worshipped for 50 years.”

“Unusual sightings are not unusual.”

“Forensic archaeologist Lucy Sibun said various body parts belonging to Victoria Couchman were missing, including her hands, feet and right arm. No clothing or personal possessions were found during a fingertip search of the area.”

“The morning after the printing press was invented in 1452, there was almost no one in Europe who was literate. Literacy was then the purview of a tiny and elite fraction of the population. The great and vast majority of the world was incapable of reading and writing.”

“This vacuum cleaner did a fantastic job of cleaning traditional wood flooring, sucking up dust and dirt from cervices with ease. It comes with a separate hard-floor nozzle, but we found the standard one to be the most effective.”

Aha ha ha. But, seriously, if you’ve ended up at this post because you’re thinking of training to be a sub, you might find this debate between the respective subbing lords of the Telegraph and the Guardian useful.

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