One of the key jobs to remember when being a copy editor is that you are also a proofreader. You have to make sure the story flows and makes sense along with being in style. The main way a news and magazine story flows is like an Inverted Pyramid. All news writing takes on this shape for a few important reasons.
Top of the Pyramid
Since most people are always pressed for time you have to grab their attention right away. They aren’t going to stick around if it takes forever to find out information. You’re not writing a book. Also you have to give them the most important information upfront. If they stop reading halfway down the page you need to make sure they leave knowing what is going on. This is an important part to remember when you are editing a story or writing one.
Reading with Questions
Be sure to ask questions while you read. You are not there to enjoy the story — hopefully you do. You must bring up questions in the writing and while reading and make sure they are answered. The worst thing you can do is leave the reader without any sense of direction and buried in questions. But be sure not to impose on the reader how to think. If there are other ways to view the topic then they must be present to allow the reader to make up their own mind. You aren’t telling them how to think.
While all stories need to follow the inverted pyramid structure not all stories have to provide both sides of the story. An exception to this rule is a column. Columns are a writer’s opinion on a topic that they choose. The writer is allowed to take a side on the topic and present their reasons for backing it. One thing to keep in mind about columns is that while they are opinion you do need facts and sources to back up your claim, otherwise you are just hurting yourself.
When it comes to editing columns nothing really changes. Just keep in mind that it is an opinion and allowed to push things a little further than a normal news story. Also the voice of the writer needs to be watched more carefully when editing so they are not accidentally taken the wrong way.
How to End
As each story comes to an end in news and magazine writing be sure not to summarize at the end. This isn’t a point where you tell the reader how to feel or recap what is going on. Most of the time the story just ends, but let it end on something to keep the conversation going. Usually the best way to end a story in news writing is with a quote that relays what you are trying to get across. It also provides a great stop to the piece and takes care of the habit of trying to summarize.