As I proofread a comics page, my internal “uh-oh” sensor pinged.
The strip didn’t contain any words we won’t print in the newspaper or depict anything gross. It didn’t clearly violate “the breakfast test”: Does this clash with eggs and bacon? But there was a trace of scatological humor. I showed my nearest colleague. He agreed the problem wasn’t clear, but I’d better consult a higher power.
I took the page to the deputy managing editor, our decider on all things comics-related. He took one look. “Pull it.”
I make my living as a copy editor for a daily newspaper. When people ask what that means, I usually say we fix mistakes and write headlines. Sometimes I say it more poetically: we vanquish error, make the rough places smooth, set small things right.
So much of good editing is listening to the words and heeding the uh-oh sensor. A friend calls it “niggles and nudges,” the little Don’t and Do that can govern behavior and action if we are attuned and obedient to them.
I’m always honored to write for The High Calling. To read the rest, and find out how I went from being a letter-of-the-law editor to a spirit-of-the-law editor, please come with me over there.