Editing news stories is one of the least satisfying jobs in any newsroom, because it involves spending a fair amount of time making someone else look smarter than you.
That’s a fact, as any copy editor will tell you. You get a pile of words, some correct, some not and in some kind of order, and your job is to turn it into a clear, cohesive, easy-to-read story and then let someone else take credit for it.
I hate it. Yet, that’s what I do every week, because it has to be done for reasons of clarity and to prevent, as much as possible, misspellings, factual errors and misused words, or words that might mean one thing to this person and an entirely different thing to another person ... such as me.
Take, for instance, one story I had to read this week:
“Police reported an accident on Main Street Tuesday that left a 74-year-old man with minor injuries .... The elderly victim was taken to ..... and treated ...”
What? What is that? Elderly? ELDERLY? ELDERLY? This guy’s not elderly. He’s the same age as I am and — I. Am. Not. Elderly.
I’m not even within swinging distance of elderly, that being a stage in life where you start believing that hiking up your pants to your shirt pocket is a good look.
To my way of thinking, a man joins the ranks of the elderly when he develops an inexplicable fondness for wearing green pants with a white belt.
I don’t know why that is, unless something happens in his sleep and he just wakes up one morning with an overwhelming desire to wear funny-looking clothes. And starts saying, “Eh?” a lot.
“Hey, gramps, what’s with the green pants?”
I will admit, or at least I have been told, that my hearing isn’t what it used to be, and that I prefer saying “Hah?” to “Eh?” as I wouldn’t want to appropriate Canadian culture.
It is also true that my pants don’t wear quite like they used to, but prefer to go south rather than north.
And yes, although I’m still energetic and active, I think it’s a good idea to conserve as much of that energy as possible just in case I need it for a special occasion.
Like, for instance, hauling my elderly butt over a couple of desks and showing someone some “elderly.”
Besides, we copy editors know that calling someone “elderly” is editorializing, which is not allowed. As soon as I catch my breath and pull my pants up, I’m going to point that out to him too.