Friday, March 05, 2004

Comedy of Errors: Annals of Copy Editing

So, an L.A. Times opera reviewer filed a piece last week calling Richard Strauss's Die Frau Ohne Schatten "an incomparably glorious and goofy pro-life paean..." Upon reviewing this article, a copy editor decided to replace "pro-life" with the more neutral term "anti-abortion."

Fine. The only problem? The opera has nothing to do with abortion... The reviewer simply meant that it was pro life, like for life, in favour of procreation...

A correction was printed, but it didn't mention that the mistake was an editing error. So, at the insistence of the reviewer, a second correction was printed. But then that pissed off the copy editors... Office antics ensued.

The whole story is here. [via About Last Night]

Clearly the reviewer is guilty of writing ambiguous prose, but the copy editor is guilty of high-handed political-correction.

[For the record, I think the term "pro-life" has no place in news copy. Anti-abortion is the more neutral term. But in a review -- essentially an opinion piece -- rhetorical language is fine and should be allowed.]

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