Being economical with the proof

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I’m in my second week working in my newest role doing production of the Arts & Life section. I don’t really have much experience in production. I’ve dabbled in design but my background is writing – and a little radio.

Production on this desk, as I understand it, involves proofing work for errors – whether they’re factual, spelling, grammatical or punctuation – and correcting them. We also write headlines and captions, which, as you can imagine, is extremely fun. They've got me shadowing pages until I'm deemed ready to take off the training wheels and work on live pages.

While I do have a good instinctual understanding of what is correct, and what is incorrect, I am less confident about all the mechanics of English grammar and punctuation. So I’ve had a few smarmy attempts to point out how well I’m doing backfire.

Coming from a news background, my instinct is to cut, cut, cut. Sentences, my mind tells me, should be as short and economical as possible. But Arts & Life is a completely different style, and people’s voices shouldn’t be lost in the editing of their work.

With that in mind, I came into this hacking and slashing so many words that stories end up far too short. Rambo. Except, Rambo at a museum.

Yesterday, I threw down the most crazy awesome semicolon. I was so proud. The perfect semicolon. I was so proud I shouted it for all the newsroom to hear. “I did it. People, behold this unbelievable semicolon.”

“Let me see,” said English language extraodinaire, and my mentor, Kevin McCardle. I hand over the page, and point out my seminal semicolon. All goes silent for five seconds – he looks stern but my smile is unwavering. Not this time. This time I’ve nailed it. That is the semicolon to end all semicolons.

“No, that’s wrong,” he says, still visibly scrutinising the misguided semicolon. “That’s a comma. Sorry.”

My soul still hurts from the semicolon incident. My efforts to sleep resolve in me tearfully shaking my fist at the dictionary. But one day, I vow, I will lay down the most crazy semicolon ever. And I shall blog about it.