Charles P. Gorry / AP

When copy editors do their job well, they essentially make themselves invisible. Good copy should feel effortless to the reader, but in reality it’s anything but. Every article in The Atlantic magazine is read—and reread, and then reread again—by our copy desk. Today, senior copy editor Karen Ostergren takes us inside the work of The Atlantic’s copy editors.

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Stand for the Reader

By Karen Ostergren, senior copy editor

There’s a moment in the recent film The Post when the reporters finish writing their first story about the Pentagon Papers and hand the draft to a copy editor; he immediately deletes the first sentence. I laughed out loud at this perfect misrepresentation of my job. Writers think I’m out to destroy their prose. Laypeople think I’m a human version of spellcheck. Neither is right.

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