Are editors and proofreaders still a thing?

On these boards we all make mistakes. Typing “the” when we meant “they” and such.

But most of us here are not professional writers. No big deal.

But I have noticed more and more online and in newspapers and magazines grammar and spelling errors abound. I see it every single day in The Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel. But also in the Chicago Tribune, Time magazine, and other periodicals as well.

I’m not being picky here. I have noticed a lot of spelling and grammar errors, not just one or two.

Are editors and proofreaders a thing of the past?

I think we see this because news stories are published online pretty much as they occur with very little editing. Editing in general is definitely NOT a thing of the past.

I see typos and grammar mistakes in the New York Times [GASP!] and the Washington Post.

I think there are fewer editors and proofreaders than in the past, especially for online content. And the editors and proofreaders who are left are less competent. They probably did not have to diagram sentence after sentence on the blackboard when they were in elementary school. That will cure you of ever messing up subject/verb agreement. Some younger people (in my world, that’s 40-ish or younger) think grammar rules are useless at best and absurd at worst.

[I think this thread belongs in IMHO, but that’s just IMHO. I’m not going to flag it.]

I can’t speak for newspapers, but I work at an advertising agency, and we absolutely still have copy editors and proofreaders. Every new business pitch, and every piece of ad copy, goes through them for review and revisions before it ever gets seen by a client.

Don’t flag the thread, but go ahead and show which posts violate Muphry’s law.

I work at a typesetting company that does books. We have a couple of proofreaders in-house and some freelancers. Many publishing houses freelance the proofreading.

Many newspapers got rid of their copyediting and proofreading staff and I believe that the New York Times let all theirs go several year ago.

With the demand for instant news, I can see why so much on-line content has mistakes and typos.


It’s just very disconcerting to be reading what is supposed to be a professionally written article and then coming across these errors.

Like driving down a smooth road and then hitting a pothole.

It is clear that proofreading and editing is not considered as important as it once was. Or possibly the proofreaders and editors are overwhelmed by trying to correct the barely comprehensible random assortment of words now considered to be journalism.

I definitely see typos even in the New York Times. Some typos suggest they were the result of speech to text software.

And I suspect that the AI folks are diligently working on proofreading/editing software, to layer on top of speech-to-text, but it’s just not quite there yet!

You should see our town. What’s a smooth road?

As someone who had grammar drilled into them ad Nauseum I do notice a lot more occurrences of really bad grammar, not to mention misspellings, even in new organizations whose whole purpose is to produce text. I agree, the emphasis on proper writing - following the rules - has faded in the last few decades. (I bet few people know what a gerund is…) If things get much worse, we may have to declare Marshall law.

Perhaps another factor is that English, being highly adaptable, is not as rules-based as some languages; I’m thinking of Spanish, where verb tense, the form of words to produce agreement between noun and adjective, etc. is an integral part of the language and mismatches are far more obvious whether written or spoken.

But there’s no doubt that many news organizations are the victims of declining audience, penny-pinching management, and so probably the educational issues result in a lack of qualified people willing to work for what they offer.

Reminds me too of the Dilbert cartoon:
Generic guy holding document: “My name’s Myron not moron - next time don’t just take the word spell-check suggests!”
Pointy-haired Boss: “What’s spell-check?”

Over the last couple of decades, major news services have eliminated swathes of copy editing jobs. The New York Times has prominently gone through a couple such waves of massive layoffs. So none of this should be a surprise.

To provide another instance of Muphry’s law, I’m taking the liberty of playing the proofreader here and pointing out that the correct spelling is ad nauseam.

Just today the front page of the San Jose Mercury News misspelled San Francisco in a headline on the front page! (They have it as “San Francico”.) And this is a local paper!

On the other hand, The New Yorker magazine, which I also get, is famous for its strict editing and proofreading.

They ain’t all went and goed. An account of the 2019 American Copy Editors Society ( ACES ) convention.

Thanks. That was awesomely nerdy.

Was this intentional or Gaudere?

Intentional. Gaudere’s Law is also known as Muphry’s [sic] Law.