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There's something to be said for experience. I'm just not so sure what that something is. You might think that someone like me, born way back in the Pleistocene epoch--the early Pleistocene--would have a leg up in the experience department, but you'd be wrong. At least in my case. I'm just not so cocksure about things anymore. That's what "experience" has done to me.

I'll give you a for-instance. When I was a young copy editor, I was a stickler. I was a bit of a curmudgeon. But now that I'm older (and perhaps more foolish), I often dwell in the danger zone of using--dare I say it--my own judgment on style issues instead of blind allegiance to Associated Press style. As Will Rogers (anybody remember him?) so aptly put it, "Good judgment comes from experience, and a lot of that comes from bad judgment." Old Will knew what he was talking about. And Oscar Wilde said, "Experience is simply the name we give our mistakes." Wild Oscar had a point there, too.

Of course Julius Caesar said, "Experience is the teacher of all things." But look what it got him.

Nowadays my philosophy on editing could best be summed up by--of all people--Captain Barbossa from Pirates of the Caribbean, when he said, "The Code is more what you'd call 'guidelines' than actual rules." Far better to be a reader's advocate than to be a curmudgeon. Do what we need to do, when we need to do it, but that doesn't mean we have to do it that way henceforth and forever. You know, flexibility instead of dogma and orthodoxy.

I'd venture to suggest that the more one learns, the more one realizes how little one knows, and the humbler one becomes.

Yet I'd be remiss if I failed to reveal that sometimes I backslide, a throwback to Pleistocene caveman curmudgeon, grunting and struggling. It's an occupational hazard. Like dwelling in the danger zone of using my own judgment. But then I knew the job was dangerous when I took it.

Pete Tepp

Copy Editor

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Author:Tepp, Pete
Article Type:Editorial
Date:Mar 1, 2018
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