Squirrel attack! A copyediting challenge


Years ago, when I was head copy editor of the Earlham Word, the student newspaper at my college — which was known for its aggressive squirrel population — I wrote this story as a test for aspiring copy editors. I share it now for your amusement. If you’d like to try your hand, feel free to comment with the number of errors you spotted, or the trickiest one you found. There are errors of spelling, grammar, punctuation, and consistency, as well as a couple of errors specific to AP style, the standard for newspapers. My total error count is 29.

(This is a work of fiction. All resemblance to real people, places, or things is coincidental.)

Last sunday, January 13th, EC was taken over by squirrels. They descended from the trees between 8:30 and 9 am, when many students were still asleep. The squirrels were unarmed, but they’re sheer numbers prevented affective resistance. 

Many students barricaded themselves in their dorms. “I was terrified,” said senior Karrie Kressler. “My quad mates and I got really scared when we heard that the squirrels had attacked. Since we live in Mills, third floor, we thought we might be safe, but just incase, we locked our door. That was a mistake. They chewed through the door and searched our stuff. We ran. It was to creepy to be there with the squirrels rummaging through everything, you know?” 

Sophomore Catie Kelly was one of those who attempted to fight back. “I hadn’t seen anything this bad since the squirrels attacked my High School in 2003”, she says. “But those were plain grey squirrels, which are outmatched by Earlham squirrels in sheer size and determination.” She was in her room in Hoerner Sunday morning when the squirrels attacked. “They burst into my room and pinned me down and searched my computer files and papers and took about half of them,” she said. “I don’t know what they were looking for.” Later that day, Kelley gathered a group of people and attacked the squirrels with textbooks. “At first we thought we were winning, but then hundreds more squirrels came and they swarmed, and bit, and scratched. Their were just too many”. 

On Monday, each faculty and staff member could be seen to have a squirrel acompanying them everywhere and overseeing their daily activities. Not all of them accepted this arrangement. Resisting fiercely, the squirrels rounded up twelve professors and marched them back campus. They have not returned and all attempts to search for them have been repelled by squads of squirells. 

Earlham College president Doug Bennett, who fled the school upon being notified of the squirrel attack, has been in touch by Email, assuring that Earlham College and its besieged students will soon be liberated.

In an email interview with the Word, Bennet wrote, “Measures are being taken. Soon Earlham College will once again be the safe, secure, and peaceful quaker institution it was last week.”

Meanwhile although classes continue as usual for the most part no student is allowed off-campus. Faculty and staff may come and go, but while on campuss they are followed everywhere by at least 1 squirrel.

It is unclear at present what the squirrels motives for taking over the college are. Many students have been searched and had files or papers taken, but no pattern has been discovered. The squirrels have not been able to be reached for comment.

Captions for photos to accompany the story: Caty Kelly, sophomore, displays the scars she received fighting squirrels last Saturday. Karrie Kresssler, senior, stands by the chewed-through door of her quad on Mills second floor.

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