Copy Editors Are the Unsung Heroes of the Newsroom

In the video above, Ned Kilkelly, senior copy editor, and Dipti Coorg, copy editor, explain how they help NBC News Digital maintain consistent style, grammar and credibility through copyediting.   

Six years ago, Kilkelly became the first copy editor hired for NBC News Digital. The team has since grown to five full-time copy editors with an additional person for weekends. “Some days, it’s still not enough to read everything that gets published. But it’s sort of like its own quality control,”  Kilkelly said. 

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The typical workflow for the copyediting team is reviewing an article after a digital editor has edited it and signaled to Kilkelly’s team that it is ready to look at. “Whoever grabs an article first works on it, unless Ned assigned it to someone in particular,” Coorg said.   

As the senior copy editor, Kilkelly is assigned some of the longer stories from the enterprise or investigations teams. “And then there’s things like graphics, and a lot of our politics pages sort of need special attention,” he said.  

When reviewing pieces, the team keeps these questions in mind: How is an NBC reader going to read that story? And what are their questions going to be? It’s up to the copy editors to ensure the articles are clear, grammatically correct and adhere to NBC style. NBC News Digital follows the AP Stylebook with certain deviations within the team to maintain consistency across all of NBC’s platforms.   

“We don’t just make changes; we give [reporters] the reasons why we are doing it,” said Coorg. “We’re trying to make them understand why we’re making a change. It helps a young reporter grow.”  

Top Tips for Copyediting

  • Punctuation & Grammar – Take a moment and read your sentence out loud and double check your punctuation for clarity. A sentence like “Let’s go eat, grandma” means something very different than “Let’s go eat grandma.”  
  • Style – It’s helpful to use a style guide to maintain consistency. There are even specific style guides for beats, like NLGJA: The Association of LGBTQ+ Journalists’ Stylebook.  
  • Avoid loaded words – Make sure to pick words that don’t have an unintended bias. For example, avoid the modifiers pro-life or pro-choice unless they are in quotes or proper names. Use anti-abortion rights or pro-abortion rights instead.