Journalism Jobs / Journalism skills / Subbing and editing

OSD – Obsessive Subbing Disorder

A big part of my job is proof-reading – finding grammatical errors, spelling mistakes and capital letters in the wrong places. I think I’ve always been a bit picky when it comes to spelling things wrong – refusing to take up text speak (spk 2 ya l8a), and being pretty good at picking up spelling errors on published work. It’s a pet hate, so when the job advert stated ‘Can you tell the difference between their and they’re‘, it seemed like the ideal job just by that very line!

In an English Language degree, spelling and punctuation is quite literally covered top to bottom, inside and out. I remember whole lectures dedicated to apostrophes or word-sentence structure. And that doesn’t mean I will never slip up on such errors, but perhaps it’s engrained in me more than others. As part of my NCTJ, I took the ‘production’ module, which included learning about subbing. Itopened my eyes up to the reality of it. For the exam, we had to sub double-page magazine features and it taught me to look at EVERYTHING on the page – the heading, sub-heads, copy, captions, the colons next to the sub-heads, the photography credits and more importantly, the consistency of these patterns throughout the feature. I think this gave me a good head start when it came to the practical test of my job interview – to sub the following feature:

Practical test as part of the interview for my job.

Practical test as part of the interview for my job.

Now, it is part of my every-day job to analyse everything that is written down on the page. I have found myself being ridiculously pedantic about the smallest of errors (‘Err why does ‘spring’ have a capital letter?’, ‘Is homemade hyphenated, or is it one word?’ ‘PTAs does NOT have an apostrophe!’). This has got to the point where, out of work, noticing mistakes in writing really is becoming a bugbear. I’ve learnt so much more from work, by the experience and discussion of doing it in a practical environment, that my pedantic nature is getting even worse…

Last week, watching a film with subtitles, I found myself analysing the subtitles rather than paying attention to the actual film. Letters through the post, websites, articles – you name it. Even picking up on the wrong ‘your/you’re’ in texts! It’s strange, because if I’m reading something at work before it has been subbed, just to read the article for pleasure and interest, the subbing elements don’t always come through. Then, when it’s printed off and the red pen is it my hand, I begin to scribble all over it, noticing that this ‘up-to-date‘ is hyphenated, but the ‘up to date‘ in the other paragraph isn’t! Worst yet, I know full well how I can make mistakes in my blog posts, and I’m sure if I printed it out and had the red pen in my hand, I’d have a field day scribbling over it all. It’s part of human nature. Sometimes I even question what is correct and what isn’t, and other times, it’s down to choice (Collins Dictionary can come in pretty handy though!).

I like how much attention we pay to grammar and spelling in the articles at work. Each feature is initially subbed by me, passed onto a second sub, and given a final read by the editor. We discuss errors too, and don’t want any feature to be sent to print unless it is perfect! Sometimes I receive press releases at work that spell something wrong in the subject. Last week, a local ‘handbook’ magazine was passed through our door. Only reading the first page I noticed NO punctuation, a lot of    unecessary  spaces    in the paragraph, and those pesky capital letters when They Are Not Needed. ARGH! You can imagine I didn’t carry on reading.

I think the birthday card they gave me at work pretty much sums up this post quite well…

A fitting card from my work on my birthday...

A fitting card from my work on my birthday…


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