Right Column Redux: Groundhog Day the Movie
My Recital

Don’t Bleed on the Copy

“Don’t bleed on the copy” started out as literal advice when I was in college. We printed out stories on an IBM MT/ST typesetting system, then glued it to boards which were turned into plates for offset printing. We used Exacto Knives to cut up the copy; careless people like me would cut themselves, bleed on the copy, and slow things down by requiring reprints. My first managing editor, Bill Roberts, coined the phrase, I think.

In any case, after college, it became a metaphor; ‘Don’t bleed on the copy” was short for “don’t fight so hard to publish every word you’ve written. They’re not all that good. Do you really want to die on this hill?” I carried the metaphor with me to several journalistic organizations, where it had a brief currency.

I was put in mind of it last week as I prepared to sing my love songs, in a home recital, to my wife and family. Ten songs, three minutes each, a half hour. Right?

Well, no. You have to breathe, drink water, and make a few comments between songs. What to cut? I bled all over the set list, and managed to cut two songs and one verse so far. We’ll see. In any case, I thought of bloody copy from a half-century ago when I made those decisions.


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