Rantings of a sub-editor

May 31, 2010

Millions and billions

Filed under: numbers,oops! — substuff @ 8:59 am
Tags: ,

Dear me, this is fast becoming a blog of my mistakes. Perhaps I should change the title to “Cock ups of a sub-editor”. I guess that on the positive side, as long as I’m cocking up, I’m learning… and as long as people are realising I’m cocking up then not too much damage is being done.

So what did I do this time?

Well, in a story about a London consultancy urging Greece to exit the euro to help tackle its debt, the debt was put at 300 million euros. I checked the name of the consultancy. I checked the conversion from euros to pounds. I checked every other darn thing in the story. I sent it through to the revise subs.

It should have been 300 billion. Obviously.

Grrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr.

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7 Comments »

  1. Well – at least you didn’t put the error into the story in the first place.

    And beware long and short scales! Many European countries apparently use the long scale – which means a billion os actually a million million, not a thousand million, as we have become used to in the UK and US…

    Comment by Freelance Unbound — May 31, 2010 @ 9:21 am | Reply

    • Ehhh? Tricks and traps everywhere! I have already fallen foul of British and American ounces.

      Comment by substuff — June 1, 2010 @ 9:06 pm | Reply

      • I am waging a one-sub campaign to get Murkan ‘billions’ revised as ‘milliards’. Much more elegant.

        Nice blog BTW!

        Comment by BristleKRS — June 22, 2010 @ 4:59 pm | Reply

  2. The good thing (apart from it not appearing in the paper) is that you care that you got it wrong, and chances are you will always check the word million from now on. Revise subs appreciate that. Anyone can make a mistake or an oversight. Not giving a toss about it, though, is far worse and I know plenty of subs who would just shrug their shoulders or blame the light in the office or the length of their shift or the quality of lunch. By putting your hands up publicly to a boob, you show how employable you are.

    Comment by Paddy — May 31, 2010 @ 12:21 pm | Reply

  3. Oh, I thought you were the one doing the revising. How many layers of subbery do publications have? Is two the standard number, or does it vary in the trade from one (or none?) to more than two?

    Comment by Rich — May 31, 2010 @ 1:36 pm | Reply

    • Hehe, fair question! It varies, and it depends what you mean by subbery. At The Grocer, it gets section edited, then sub edited, then edited by the editor or deputy editor. So three layers of editing. But it then comes back to the subs and we proof it off. At newspapers (I don’t know if this applies to all) it’s still three layers (I think) but without the zig zagging. Once the subs have done it, it goes to the revise subs who check it all again. Also, as the subs are often casual workers, the revise subs check that the headlines are all fresh and haven’t already been done that week etc – they take a wider view. I think that’s how it works, anyway – my knowledge of how newspapers work is still at fledgling level!

      Comment by substuff — June 1, 2010 @ 9:13 pm | Reply


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