Copy editor at the movies

Posted: February 10, 2014 by shawnfury in Uncategorized
Tags: , , , ,

If you’ve been in a theater the past month, you’ve probably seen the trailer for the new movie where Liam Neeson kills numerous people while saving others. It’s not the new Taken movie. Instead it’s about an air marshal who finds out someone will kill a passenger unless some money gets wired into a secret account and then that secret account is in Liam’s name and the crew turns against him and all he wants to do is find the madman before the whole damn plane goes down — or up — in flames. The movie is called Non-Stop.

And as I saw the title come up on the big screen during the previews, all I could think was, what kind of style guide was the studio using?

Nonstop is one word. Merriam-Webster says this, as does the AP Style Guide. The word looks stilted with the hyphen. Maybe the studio wants people to pause a bit while saying the title and you can easily picture Neeson growling to a frightened flight attendant, “This is a Non (pause) Stop flight. I don’t care if three F-16s appear and threaten to shoot us out of the sky, we are not stopping.” But even in that case he’d probably make it two words for dramatic purposes.

Movies often cause consternation for copy editors. For a long time a crossword I edited always had a clue about the “Julia Roberts movie Eat Pray _” and each time I shook my head.

“Should we put a comma here?”

I sometimes inserted commas, which I regret. Two wrongs, etc., etc.

Some posters and DVD covers of The 40-Year-Old Virgin failed to put the first hyphen — making it The 40 Year-Old Virgin — an inexcusable mistake. True story: People who know how to use hyphens have more sex.

As a believer in AP style — who also understands its flaws and finds plenty to be annoyed with — I would have liked the boring Will Smith movie Seven Pounds to be 7 Pounds, per guidelines. Again, I also think it stands out more — who has time to read a five-letter word when you can see the figure and know right away how much weight is involved?

The title 48 Hrs. never made sense to me. If it was for space reasons — maybe it was supposed to fit better on promotional material — does one extra space really make that much difference? Hours compared to Hrs.? Perhaps. A stickler — one of those crusty old copy editors who’s hated by everyone and knows everything but doesn’t really understand artistic license or breaking the rules occasionally — probably fought over the title Boyz N the Hood, likely agreeing with them that the z worked on boyz but imploring executives to make it Boyz In the Hood or at least ‘N.

Not that the title will keep me from seeing Non-Stop. I take great pleasure in watching Liam dismantle entire terrorist networks at his advanced age. But if there’s a Non-Stop 2, maybe he can be as brutal with the red pen in the boardroom as he is with a gun in the airplane.

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