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Copy Editor for Hire

September 3, 2011 Leave a comment Go to comments

There’s a new copy editor available for hire. Me! I’m not sure why no one has made an offer yet. But I now have proof that I can teach The New Yorker a thing or two, and I figure that has to look good on my résumé.

Reeves Wiedeman has been posting a series of notes on the New Yorker’s blog about the US Open tennis championships taking place here in New York. Two days ago, he had a short piece about Andy Roddick with a last paragraph that had the opening sentence, “It would be a stretch to say that Roddick, two days into his twenty-ninth year, has aged gracefully.”

Now, I don’t walk around with the birth years memorized for the world’s top tennis players, but I had a feeling, and the feeling was that Roddick was two days past his twenty-ninth birthday, the number twenty-nine having been planted in Wiedeman’s brain because of that. And if my feeling were correct, then Wiedeman had mis-spoken.

I googled Roddick and found that, sure enough, his birthday is August 30, 1982, which meant, sure enough, that he turned 29 two days before Wiedeman’s post.

So what’s the point? Well, here’s how I explained it in a comment responding to the post:

I don’t wish to distract from your main point, but perhaps nonetheless it’s worth pointing out that having turned 29 two days ago, Roddick is now two days into his thirtieth year, not his twenty-ninth. When we turn a certain age, we have just completed that year in our lives, as is evident when one thinks about infants on their first birthdays.

I was nervous about posting this. I didn’t want a backlash of comments about how compulsively precise I was being. I was afraid to look again to see what new comments appeared trashing me. I tried to be courteous. But, the thing is, Wiedeman was simply wrong. Someone should tell him, no?

There’s a history to this. Back in 1998, we attended an open house at the school Joel would ultimately attend for middle and high school. The headmaster gave a talk about the school’s history, emphasizing their preparation for the year-long celebration of their upcoming 75th anniversary. They began in 1924, would turn 75 in 1999, and 1999-2000 would be the celebration year. He then described what it would be like to celebrate during the school’s 75th year.

Someone had to tell him. I took on the burden and sent an email — a long one — explaining why the school, which was free to celebrate its 75th anniversary whenever it saw fit, would in fact be celebrating it during its 76th year if it chose 1999-2000 as the year. The headmaster responded in wonder, amazed, it seemed, that anyone would think about such issues, much less write to him about them.

Had I just ruined Joel’s chances of being admitted to the school? I had months to worry about that. But it worked out. He got in, the headmaster moved on to another job, and no one spoke about celebrating the 75th year of the school during its 76th year.

How did The New Yorker respond? I didn’t think they would at all. I was more concerned with flames from readers. And I wouldn’t have had the courage to look back except that I had told Joel to look at the post and he wrote back to me about it this morning. I checked and discovered that no reader had flamed me after all. No reader had even written. There was just one comment after mine, and it was from The New Yorker itself, yesterday afternoon:

When you’re right, you’re right, rsirving. We’ve amended the sentence in question. Thanks!

Posted 9/2/2011, 3:17:08pm by tnywebedit

How about that? When you’re right, you’re right. That’s what I was thinking too. Here’s the amendment: “It would be a stretch to say that Roddick, two days after turning twenty-nine, has aged gracefully.”

I might have preferred that they keep Wiedeman’s original version and simply replace “twenty-ninth” with “thirtieth.” They chose a different direction. Regardless, it’s correct now.

I won’t work for just anyone, but I’m ready, if The New Yorker wants to hire me on. Nothing like starting at the top.

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Categories: Counting, Writing
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