See the scissors of the sub-editor

Pay down cash

Where cash was once king, no-one wants to transact with hard currency, banks charge a fortune for handling the dirty lucre and it’s certainly not safe to be walking around with a stash in your back pocket.

Have no fear – CONTENT is the new king. Content is the king of the ‘interverse’. Everybody wants it, everybody has it and everybody dumps it anywhere and anyhow.

So, while content may be king, the ransom is quality. Because there is no screening and everyone and anyone is a blogger, publisher, expert, specialist there is no control over what makes it into cyberspace.

And while it might be excusable for the mass market and itchy-fingered keyboardists who have the daily urge to post something – it’s not okay for once-reputable news titles to do the same.

And yet, our most respected sources from Financial Mail and Business Day, even the Huffington Post, are publishing articles with the most appalling mistakes. I’m not going to illustrate with examples, but I’m sure you’ve seen a few yourself.

Own goal

Sub-editors are the gatekeepers (or goalkeeper, as a young reporter once referred to us) of standards and once were regarded with the utmost respect in the newsroom.

I am the proud owner of the Mail & Guardian Style Guide, Second Edition, 2008, but to what avail.

When I use words in my articles that my clients don’t understand, I have to wonder where the quality of language has gone to. And speaking of clients, they love to use capital letters in their corporate documents. Job titles DO  NOT TAKE CAPITALS. how to use capital letters


According to the Belfast Telegraph   “There was, however, another key skill that the most diligent subs protected: writing standards. Alas, this one is under most pressure, not least due to the multiple informal entry routes into journalism – especially online – that do not provide formal training.”

And here’s the key point: “The best subs would proudly keep the paper free of rubbish. Chief amongst their targets were clichés, contradictions, purple prose and the heinous crime of ‘burying’ the best line of a story.”

The Belfast Telegraph adds: “A former senior sub on the Daily Mail, Margaret Ashworth, has brilliantly caught the mood of the decline of sub-editing as it was traditionally practised.

“She says ‘a lack of curiosity, coupled with the absence of guidance or training’ has led to ‘a catastrophic drop in standards’.”

A final word: Any content worth publishing must at least see the scissors of a sub-editor!

A quick lesson in how to use capital letters

Three key notes to persuasive copy

No comma sense: Three common uses for this little grammar tool

Iza Grek

Iza is an award-winning journalist. She has worked in advertising and communications for more than 20 years. A Word or 2 has been in operation since October 2014 and continues to thrive, serving customers writing and editing services across the board from blogs to speeches and e-books.