Copy editing capers

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This last summer, I was given the opportunity to spend a month traveling across Asia and Europe. I was also automatically given the opportunity to supervise my 75-year-old grandparents as they, too, traveled across Asia and Europe. Between watching my grandma spend half an hour maneuvering a DSLR into a flat purse and listening to my grandpa’s 20-minute debate between two beer-themed magnets (€3 bottle cap versus €5 mini mug), I spent a significant portion of my time waiting.

As a copy editor, I often find myself thinking about how to apply language and grammar skills to everyday life. Below is a list I’ve compiled of personal favorites.

  • When conversing with a local in a non-English speaking country, fake a British accent and gauge its quality by seeing whether they get suspicious. The difficulty of this task increases with the length of the interaction and the other party’s English proficiency.
  • Pinpoint the style errors in a tourist information sign, a travel brochure or one of those Asian shirts with bad English (“Hamberger friend / I feel happiness / When I / eat a him.”) Alternatively, edit the bias out of an advertisement and see how stupid it sounds afterwards.
  • One of a copy editor’s duties is checking for libel, which is false information published with the intent of defamation. Reduce libel on the streets by inserting the word “allegedly” into business taglines: “Allegedly the Best in Town” or “It’s Allegedly Our 20th Anniversary!”
  • Single out license plates on the road and try to come up with a word that contains the same sequence of letters in the same order, like “reconcile” for 5RCC678 or “unwinnable” for 6UWB789.
  • Brainstorm dumb vlog title puns for each of your travel destinations even though you do not and will never vlog.
  • Spend a disproportionate amount of time thinking about whether “Japantics” or “Japanigans” is a better vlog title.
  • Come up with the life story of a passing driver based on their appearance and the contents of their car. For an extra challenge, make up their Tinder bio.
  • Keeping in mind that (a) some non-Latin languages are phonetic and (b) Google Maps displays place names in both romanized and native forms, embark on a mission to enter the Maps app an American heathen and exit literate in both Russian and Korean.
  • Bonus: mentally switch the outfits of a very young person and a very old person.

I hope this list helps out next time you’re bored and away from home. I don’t have much else to say, but in case you’re wondering, my grandpa ended up buying the mini mug.

Contact Angela Dong at [email protected]

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