Treading Lightly

Recently, I read The Subversive Copy Editor by Carol Fisher Saller. Saller is a copyeditor at the University of Chicago Press, home of the celebrated stylebook, now in its seventeenth edition. She also manages the question and answer feature on the stylebook’s website, which has been a huge resource to me over the years. I’ve followed happenings at the University of Chicago for quite some time — since the fourteenth edition!

I wholeheartedly agree with Saller’s take on copyediting and the Chicago philosophy in general. One of the sentences in the opening pages of the book sums it up perfectly:

Your first goal isn’t to slash and burn your way through [the manuscript] in an effort to make it conform to a list of style rules. (p. 7)

Unless you want someone to change your work radically (which I would suggest is substantive editing, not copyediting), this lighter and sensible approach to copyediting should put you at ease. When you hand over a manuscript for copyediting, you feel the work is in pretty good shape and that it needs some fact-checking and smoothing (and, in many cases, formatting help for references and bibliographies).

So remember that unless you are submitting an article for a publication with strict guidelines or your work needs a lot of retooling, the copyediting process should be pretty gentle.

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2018 by the Numbers

Before the clock strikes midnight tonight, I wanted to reflect on my freelance work this year. Thanks to a lot of great clients, I have worked on many different types of projects for the last 12 months. Without further ado, here is my year by the numbers:

  • 36 articles written for Healthline
  • 13 permissions projects managed (a handful with 100+ permissions needed)
  • 12 journal manuscripts copyedited
  • 6 books copyedited or proofread
  • 5 projects completed in my “other” category, including ghostwriting, copywriting, writing coaching, and more

I’ve used The Chicago Manual of Style, the Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association, and the MLA Handbook this year, as well as many other house style guides.

Thanks to everyone who has made this year successful for Silver Scribe Editorial Services. Truly, I am grateful for the work and your support!

 

Thoughts on Copyediting from a Pro

I just finished reading Between You and Me: Confessions of a Comma Queen by Mary Norris, a longtime copyeditor at The New Yorker. Her book is a memoir/reference hybrid, combining lovely anecdotes about her life as well as grammar lessons. Some passages in the book resonated with me, especially those about the role of a copyeditor:

On the purpose of copyediting:

The whole point of having things read before publication is to test their effect on a general reader. You want to make sure when you go out there that the tag on the back of your collar isn’t poking up–unless, of course, you are deliberately wearing your clothes inside out. (p. 36)

On what writers think of copyeditors:

Writers might think we’re applying rules and sticking it to their prose in order to make it fit some standard, but just as often we’re backing off, making exceptions, and at least trying to find a balance between doing too much and doing too little. (p. 38)

And on why copyeditors will always be important, despite technology improving:

Because English has so many words of foreign origin, and words that look the same but mean something different depending on their context, and words that are in flux, opening and closing like flowers in time-lapse photography, the human element is especially important if we are to stay on top of the computers, which, in their determination to do our  job for us, make decisions so subversive that even professional wordsmiths are taken by surprise. (p. 113)

Finally, Mary’s enthusiasm of pencils (especially soft-leaded no. 1 pencils!) is particularly endearing in the chapter “Ballad of a Pencil Junkie.” In this penultimate chapter, she also remarks on her lacking handwriting (“I’d had complaints about it since third grade,” p. 171) and shares an interesting observation about those with neat handwriting: “Later, as a graduate student, teaching comprehension, I noted that the student with the neatest handwriting often wrote the dullest prose” (p. 172). The quote reminds me to be gentler on my own children with their sometimes-sloppy (often-sloppy?) handwriting.

This delightful book about the editing life is the twenty-sixth book I’ve read this year for pleasure (only four more to go to meet my goal for the year!). It does not count the hundreds (probably thousands) of pages I have read for work. Nothing makes me happier than sinking my teeth into a new subject or work. I am thankful that I’ve been able to make reading a hobby and a career.

Numbers: 2016

I realize that January is halfway over, but I wanted to post a review of 2016. Last year was hugely successful for me as a freelance writer and editor, so I wanted to mark the occasion by running my work by the numbers. Without further ado:

  • Number of clients: 13
  • Number of books copyedited or proofread: 6
  • Number of journals copyedited: 10
  • Number of articles written: 50
  • Number of huge nursing education textbooks or supplemental materials edited: 3
  • Number of dissertations edited: 2
  • Number of individual clients who I collaborated with on resumes, websites, and marketing copy: 7

And here are a few approximate numbers, just for fun’s sake:

  • Number of times I reviewed a style book (including Chicago, APA, and AP): 5,000
  • Number of times I looked up a term in Merriam-Webster: 7,000

Thank you to all of my clients who keep me working so hard year-round. I am lucky to be in this profession, and as a lifelong learner and avid reader, working on a variety of topics couldn’t be more thrilling.

 

An Onslaught of Finished Work

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You know it’s been a busy time when finished journals and books and links to your online work flood your doorstep and email inbox. In fact, I’ve been so focused on current work that I haven’t had a chance to share these finished projects here.

These completed works include two issues of academic journals I regularly copyedit, one book I copyedited under a pretty quick deadline, and two books I proofread back in July.

Additionally, Healthline recently published two new articles I wrote back in August:

This fall continues to fly by with new projects to tackle, but please let me know if any of my publishing services may help you.