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Readers prefer edited news

[26 April 2011] Research by Wayne State University has shown that readers prefer news stories on websites to be professionally edited, yet the rush to be first online often means this doesn’t happen. Assistant professor Fred Vultee, formerly a newspaper editor, presented the research results at the conference of the American Copy Editors Society (ACES), which commissioned and collaborated on the research.

Vultee measured 66 readers’ assessments of four edited and four unedited articles, which they rated on professionalism, grammar and organization. The study found that readers:

  • notice grammar errors and find them troubling and distracting
  • see errors of consistency, for example a name spelled two ways, or ‘p.m.’ and ‘pm’
  • notice writing that is garbled and confusing, and when words are misspelled or misused
  • can tell edited from unedited stories in significant ways.

The study shows that ‘readers care about what copy editors do, and copy editors can tell managers that their jobs are therefore critical to their organizations’. Vultee’s research continues, and will look at whether readers would stop visiting a website altogether because of poor editing. For more information, see http://www.aces2011.org/aces-news/17/aces-sponsored-research-study-says-yes/. You can also visit Vultee’s blog, Headsup, which shares ‘thorts and comments about editing and the deskly arts’, at http://www.headsuptheblog.blogspot.com/.

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