Y’all Need a Copy Editor: Bloomberg News, are you TRYING to start a war?
February 5, 2022
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Here at Words Collide, we’re not into grammar nazism. We do, however, believe that if you’re a well-resourced entity running a public-facing agency, company, or brand, you cannot afford to let messy or offensive errors destroy your messaging. Y’all need a copy editor.
I’ve learned that I no longer have the time or energy to criticize everyone else’s English mistakes, and that (shocker), it usually isn’t my place to do so anyway. The human writers, and editors, among us are far from infallible at the best of times. My editorial philosophy overall is that most situations deserve gentleness and grace.
This column is different because we’ll be talking about the kinds of sloppy mistakes that can embarrass a brand, diminish a minority group, or undermine a key message. Y’all Need a Copy Editor is a pointed callout to businesses, brands, and public figures who should already know better and, if they don’t, immediately invest in the resources and relationships to help them do so. It is a place to uphold the value of employing a diverse, knowledgeable staff when one is able.
The best copy editors aren’t out there merely nitpicking spelling and grammar. They’re deploying years of expertise to help save publications, companies, nonprofits, and governments from their own hubris. It’s unsung, behind-the-scenes labor that most people will never notice until it isn’t done.
If your organization has been releasing material with errors like this, do yourself a favor right now and hire a copy editor, pronto.
What’s wrong with this headline gaffe from Bloomberg News? Everything.
Why it’s wrong: Bloomberg’s own statement says that the headline they published was factually incorrect. News publications often write dummy headlines for graphic design or speed purposes before inserting the final version. In the context of heightened international tensions, this one was an incredibly irresponsible pick to just throw into a file. There aren’t many words that properly convey just how stupid this was. “Cataclysmic” ranks up there, though.
If an event of this nature—one that could conceivably trigger World War III—ever did occur, having a dramatic backup headline prewritten wouldn’t save actionable time. As my non-media spouse astutely observed, media outlets reporting responsibly on the immediate aftermath would need to have journalists and credible contacts on the ground.
This is the kind of false alarm that could stymie diplomats, cause mass panic, or spark an international conflict, and it’s the sort of carelessness that undermines public trust in the free press. A headline mistake might normally be dismissed as a minor screwup, but the language chosen for this one could have had deadly consequences.