Can the Internet Impede the Skills of Copy Editors?

by | Aug 14, 2019 | Miscellaneous

Among all inventions, very few impact our day-to-day lives as much as the Internet. It has made communication easier, simplified many complex processes and, last but not least, created umpteen resources to gain wide-ranging knowledge. No one could argue against that. However, I’m afraid that what we have lost due to the Internet may soon outweigh what we have gained.

The Internet has made us buyers, and we buy thoughts – thoughts of those who are unknown to us. You can very well say that we gain so much knowledge through the Internet. Yes, gaining knowledge about something unknown is, without any doubt, one of the most fruitful features of the Internet. But are we gaining knowledge? Or are we buying others’ thoughts?

Have you got any friend (‘friend’, both in the traditional sense and in the Internet sense) who just scrolls through the newsfeed, likes posts, shares them and tags other friends, doing all these in the least possible time without understanding what the post actually means? This especially happens when the post addresses any ongoing issue (trending issue, in social media terminology). There is a very high possibility that we all could have done this quite a few times.

Have we gained any knowledge by doing so? If yes, it is high time we knew the real meaning of the term ‘knowledge’: the information, understanding and skills that you gain through education or experience (courtesy: Oxford Dictionary). Of course, we receive some information, but what about the understanding and experience parts?

We are buying thoughts from others by paying our valuable time, attention and – most of all – ourselves in entirety. To make things worse, spreading of this pseudo-knowledge happens in a flash. We just share what we came to know, ignoring detailed information and analysis. All we need is some information to share, unaware that we are selling ourselves to an unknown person. This way, our knowledge keeps on extending to infinite extremes like a smartphone display, with our understanding shrinking like its bezels.

Even our reading is profoundly damaged. Most of the new-gen social media freaks cannot have their hold on something that exceeds, say, 140 characters. If you are one among them, it is highly likely that you are skim-reading this post. Our attention span is getting reduced day by day since there is always a lot more to know. Yes, we get more, but with less quality.

In short, we are losing our reasoning ability, and in my opinion, the Internet has played a major role in this. When we reason, we consider the facts to think in a logical way. It is the only thing that distinguishes humans from robots (I still believe robots cannot reason as good as us). Actually, we should revisit our current thinking process. But keep in mind that the time we spend on something without reasoning cannot be considered thinking. Reasoning plays a major role in both critical and logical thinking. The latter makes us relate facts or ideas. Reasoning is the process that guides us in drawing conclusions from incomplete or circumstantial evidence. Improving our reasoning skills is the immediate solution we can practise.

We cannot blame the Internet, or social media, as the only cause for concern. But it is an important factor which is originally thought to enhance our standards (which it did perfectly) but now making us too dependent on itself. Any invention has some negative effects associated with it, and the Internet is not an exception. In a world where phones are getting smarter, I fear that we are losing our smartness. If this trend continues, there will be no difference between humans and robots in the future.

  1. Suresh

    A copy editor can detect serious mistakes even in a sentence that is grammatically correct. Is there a logical mistake? A word may be mistyped (e.g. close and closed). Has someone typed or corrected the spelling wrongly, e.g. earring/hearing? Check prepositions (e.g. dispose/dispose of). Is the meaning clear? Suspect typing/grammar mistakes and decipher the intended meaning. By using the Internet where many writings are hastily written, one tends to ignore grammar mistakes and the exact meaning of sentences is not known. People with writing skills get a wide readership e.g. through blogs. Subject experts now get wide attention and publish new findings. The Internet has enabled copy editors to query authors and edit better.

    • Sanjana Keerthi

      An interesting observation! I would have to agree that the trends in language come about by the form of language that is made aware to the larger population. For the Millennials and their younger generations, the internet has moulded their language largely because that is where their reading and writing material exists (in blogs, comments, social media, news feeds etc…). I believe that while good grammar is not entirely lost, the need for one to have impeccable grammar or well edited content has been reduced. Bloggers are willing to hire writers who can churn out material at a rapid rate since the algorithms online are in favour of regular uploads. This often leads to quantity over quality. Commercialization and a large acceptance of shoddily written online content by commercial brands has given way for a lowered awareness of proper grammar among the lay man hence undercutting the importance of copyeditors. I believe companies should invest in editors to oversee the work of their writers. Or, at the very least, hire writers who can edit their own material.

      • Saravanakumar M

        Accepted. One of my freelance language editors said some of the authors are using a software program which replaces a word with another word with a similar meaning. This is to publish an already published article without getting caught during plagiarism check. But unfortunately the software is so dumb that it replaced the statistical method ‘k-means’ to ‘k-implies’, literally. And the article got rejected for its wayward sentence constructions.

  2. Suresh

    The Internet has made copy editors of English journals read a lot of badly written text, whereas publishers might have returned such manuscripts to the authors. A copy editor now uses his knowledge of grammar and logic to spot and remove any mistake that makes a sentence illogical. A copy editor tries to bring out the intended meaning by rewriting minimally.
    Scientists have something important to convey and publishers have to hurry in printing them to reveal to the world before others. Authors don’t know about grammar and the publisher wants good English. Copy editors do their best to publish the original without affecting the meaning. They help to get the work of writers accepted by publishers and help readers enjoy reading a great author.

  3. Suresh

    Reading books and magazines made us question and think logically. The reach of these media used to be a small percentage.

    We skipped the ads in those publications. Today we read the ads and skip the books.

    We watch videos made by sellers or those who want us to ignore the harm done by greed. They are exerting peer group pressure to make us act without reason.

  4. Saravanakumar M

    Time is indeed a constraint here. Time is relative. Time required to publish an article (or even edit an article) depends on various factors. My concern is copyeditors, after reading and editing many incoherent texts, lose the real knack for details and may overlook what actually is ‘editing’. Many of the new-gen copyeditors I met are so mechanical and rely too much on websites.

  5. Suresh

    A copyeditor does a lot of grammar corrections as the manuscripts/web writings are badly written. As a result, there is no time for a final reading to spot any content mistakes (with subject knowledge) and logical mistakes.

    Errors are likely to be present in the final proofs but there is now no time. (1) Errors may arise because of omission of a portion of a paragraph. Previous versions of a manuscript might have had an omitted portion of text but the two sentences may be mistakenly joined later by copyeditors. (2) Newly typed portions are accident prone as copyeditors tend to do only spelling check of these places. (3) Authors might have sent new sentences by email to insert but the insertions are in the wrong places.

    Copyeditors should read everything inserted or typed later.

  6. Suresh

    An original manuscript always needs changes before printing and somebody has to be employed to edit it. Nobody will edit it without creating further errors. Copyeditors are needed to prepare a good manuscript and maintain standards in language. In recent times all that we read in the Web is poor English. A copyeditor also keeps reading badly written text every day. Copyeditors may therefore become influenced by the world of blogs and posts. They will then ignore grammar mistakes when doing their job routinely! The language of hastily written web writings is affecting all of us. It is deteriorating our ability to write and speak good English. It is necessary to train copyeditors again. Copyeditors have to read good books and get trained again.
    Copyeditors have to focus on helping authors to write well and should ask the author to clarify and make edits. If they don’t know what is the intended meaning they cannot make edits. They have to alert authors about possible logical mistake in sentences.

    • Saravanakumar M

      I believe that a copyeditor, even in these days, can edit an article without introducing further errors. But it requires very careful understanding of the text. Most of the copyeditors are trained from the grammar perspective, but are required to handle highly subject-specific manuscripts. What happens is if a highly subject-specific manuscript is handed over to a novice copyeditor, he may introduce some errors while relying too much not-so-authentic references, such as blogs and websites . However, if the same manuscript is handed over to an experienced editor who is not a subject expert, he too may introduce errors as he may become overconfident with his experience. One of the ways to avoid this is to train copyeditors subject-specifically, which is time- and resource-consuming.

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