Glen Silcox doesn't like to talk about himself much. He would rather take a long walk or read a good book.
He'd prefer not to talk much about his work, either. He'd rather just do it, and do it right.
Recently, Silcox decided he would retire early, July 1, after 37 years at the Deseret News.
"I just want to leave while I'm still sharp," he said. At 61, he'd like totake more time to hike, bike, study geology, watch birds and read.
When he does leave, the Deseret News will lose one of its best teachers. Silcox has been a grammar guru in the newsroom for years. Reporters and editors go to him when they don't know whether they've used words properly.
Silcox doesn't just scan copy for spelling and grammar errors; he investigates it. He has been polishing stories on the Deseret News copy desk fornearly 30 years. He served as copy desk chief, cracking the whip on the copy desk crew, for about 10 of those years, though he's not counting - or not telling, anyway.
JoLynne Van Valkenburg, assistant copy chief, has counted. She was a student of Silcox during several of the years he was in the "slot."
"There must be 10,000 things you have to know to consistently write great headlines, and Glen Silcox seems to know them all," Van Valkenburg said.
"As slot for 10 years, he painstakingly taught accuracy and creativity. Since rejoining the rim, Glen has taught through example. He resists the common headline- writing technique of dressing ordinary ideas in glittery wording.
"He finds new ways to think of what's happening, often going outside the story to bring the reader in. His headlines aren't gimmicky, they're organic," she said.
Silcox, a Utah native, didn't intend to be a journalist when he started college. He graduated with a degree in English from the University of Utah in 1950. He worked in a steel mill and then in construction, while he considered a career. While attending the U., he met Virginia George in a Victorian literature class. They fell in love and married - and they still share a great affection for literature. Silcox decided on a career constructing sentences rather than buildings. His wife chose to teach English in public schools. They raised two children, Geoffrey, 33, and Teresa, 30.
Silcox started working as a "copy boy" at the Deseret News on March 21, 1951, and quickly moved up to writing obituaries, making up pages and reporting on a beat. Eventually, he found his niche on the copy desk.
In 1979 Silcox won the Mark E. Peterson Merit Award, a top honor at the Deseret News. He probably should get an award every year, because he always strives for excellence and never settles for mediocrity. And he is always improving, keeping his craft the way he says he likes it, "fresh, burnished."
Under duress, Silcox does offer one insight into his life and his work.
"Copy editing gives me great pleasure. Exercises the mind. I also enjoy exercising the body - hiking, bicycling. I have the idea, which the years may prove wrong, that the mind will keep working even when other parts of the body start conking out. The copy desk certainly exercises the mind."