Strategic Copy Editing

John Russial

A Paperback Original
A Paperback Original
December 12, 2003
ISBN 9781572309265
Price: $47.00
280 Pages
Size: 6" x 9"
Professors: Free copies available for adoption consideration

This pragmatic text helps students master the craft of copy editing—including both the editing skills and the “people skills” essential to professional success. Experienced newspaper copy editor and professor John Russial covers the fundamentals and more: how to edit for grammar, punctuation, usage, and style; attend to broader issues of fairness and focus; develop strong headlines and other display elements; and work collaboratively with reporters, other editors, and designers. Special attention is given to the copy editor's role as critical thinker and coach as well as resident wordsmith. Throughout, proven editing strategies are explained and numerous concrete examples and practical tips offered.

Strategic Copy Editing offers a bridge between the world of stylebooks and reporting texts and the wider, unscripted world of professional copy editing. The emphasis on decision making, coaching, and critical thinking is particularly valuable to editors-in-training moving from classroom exercises to real stories written on real deadlines by real colleagues. Discussions of headlines and story form show a solid, nuanced awareness of how the rules got there, when and why they might need to be refined or reshaped, and how editors can do so in a day-to-day, practical context.”

—Fred Vultee, University of Missouri School of Journalism

“Russial has poured his impressive professional background into a richly comprehensive guide to editing. Beginning editing students will come away with a full understanding of what it means to be a copy editor. Advanced students will discover not only familiar topics mined with greater depth, but also topics seldom covered in typical textbooks; for example, how to work with the reporter as well as the story. The tips and strategies given at the end of most chapters offer advice that even professional copy editors would find useful. Strategic Copy Editing should be on the desk of anyone interested in the transformation of words and art into a coherent and compelling message.”

—Deborah Gump, Knight Ohio Program for Editing and Editing Education, E.W. Scripps School of Journalism, Ohio University

“John Russial's strategic approach to copy editing is what sets this book apart from others in the field. He looks at editing from the inside out, and from the outside in, and how the ‘people factor' affects it all. The book is philosophical, yet practical. It's a tool that anyone teaching editing will find rich and rewarding. Russial affords the copy editor—whether novice or advanced—the opportunity to understand not only what to do, but also why to do it.”

—Malcolm Gibson, William Allen White School of Journalism and Mass Communications, The University of Kansas

“In addition to explaining the what and how of copy editing, John Russial explains the why thoroughly and persuasively. A great strength of his book lies in the dignity and force with which he lays out the importance of our obscure but essential craft.”

—John E. McIntyre, Assistant Managing Editor/Copy Desk, The Baltimore Sun

Table of Contents

Serves as a primary text in undergraduate and graduate-level editing courses.

1. Introduction: What Do Copy Editors Do?

2. Mechanics: The Nuts and Bolts

3. Accuracy

4. Precision and Language

5. Logic and Form

6. Fairness and Legality

7. Working with People

8. Introduction to Display Type

9. Headline Basics

10. Headlines: The Next Level

11. Other Display Elements

12. Words and Images Together

13. Page Design

14. The Future of Copy Editing

15. Pursuing Excellence

About the Author

John Russial has taught editing, writing, and new media courses at the University of Oregon School of Journalism and Communication for 11 years. He spent 17 years working for daily newspapers, the last 12 at The Philadelphia Inquirer, where he was Sunday copy chief. He is active in the American Copy Editors Society and occasionally leads professional workshops for copy editors and reporters. Russial has a bachelor's degree from Lehigh University, a master's from Syracuse University and a doctorate from Temple University. He studies how technology and organizational change affect copy editing and newspaper quality.


Journalism professors and students; also of interest to working copy editors and managing editors.

Serves as a primary text in undergraduate and graduate-level editing courses.

Course Use

Serves as a primary text in undergraduate and graduate-level editing courses.