Make Copy Shine by Editing

By Sabrina Schmitz, CJE

Creating a perfect, mistake-free yearbook is a dream, but it should be the goal. Learn the ways of copy editing in this unit, and bring credibility and journalistic integrity to your staff in the process.


The long-awaited day has finally arrived. The yearbook is being delivered and every staffer anxiously waits to tear into those boxes and break the binding on their precious publication. All the sleepless nights, last-minute photo-ops and computer blindness have all been for this moment — seeing the satisfied look on the faces of your peers. You hand out your pride and joy to a student and watch them walk away smiling, but then they stop… turn… and head back to you.

You know what comes next.

“You spelled my name wrong.”

“Do you know you spelled varsity wrong?”

“That’s not what grade I’m in.”

Maybe the perfect publication is a pipe dream. There is just too much to do in such a short time to make sure everything has been copy-edited and factchecked. However, no matter the excuses we make, this fact remains: errors diminish credibility and journalistic integrity.

How can we be trusted to tell a student’s emotional tale or accurately document the history of a school year if we can’t spell the word “success” correctly?

You can’t learn to edit copy overnight. It is an art that is learned and acquired over time with practice.

Sabrina Schmitz, CJE

Sabrina Schmitz, CJE, is a Walsworth Yearbooks sales representative in Florida. With a degree in magazine journalism, she taught graphic design and journalism in addition to advising The Stampede yearbook staff and The Hoofbeat newspaper staff at J.W. Mitchell High School in New Port Richey, Fla. In her six years of advising, The Stampede yearbook was awarded two CSPA Silver Crowns, a Gold Crown, a NSPA Pacemaker Award, and was an NSPA Design of the Year finalist in 2012. She was recognized as Teacher of the Year in 2013 as well as a District Teacher of the Year Finalist and has taught at workshops and conventions around the country.