Monday, September 17, 2007

Word as word

So after an insane marathon work day "yesterday" (a long yesterday that really included much of the large part of today that fell between midnight and noon) I safely delivered the marked-up copy-edited manuscript of my novel to my editor and we had a very nice lunch and then I went back to the office to meet some folks there.

I really need some weeks without any deadlines now--this living-on-one's-nerves phenomenon is no good, and it is unhelpful for my training when I get so little sleep!

It is a luxury having such a good editor, and the copy editor was remarkably good also. I thought about scanning a page and explaining how it works, but in the end I simply didn't have time! As a former copy editor myself, though, I really appreciate having a great one.

The copy editor fixes things for house style (hyphens, for instance, and various other things to do with format, like marking certain features of layout so that the typesetters will put the document together properly), but most importantly is checking for various kinds of inconsistencies and facts. So that, for instance, I got a lovely sheet with all the page references for which classes meet at which times, with a question about potential inconsistencies (in fact, the schedule is not the same on different days of the week, but it was still worth clarifying that the girls have a Monday-morning English class, history first-period Tuesday and double chemistry lab first thing Friday mornings). And lots of really attentive and thoughtful questions about dates, usage, etc.

(I stood by a couple British usages that I want to keep for flavor: pavement rather than sidewalk; knave rather than jack; a few others...)

My favorite thing: the marginal notation, next to certain markings of italics, of word as word! When a word is used as a word, it is italicized, whether or not it's in dialogue...

So (this was one I added myself, it hadn't been marked), an example:
Sophie went back to bed. Her feet were freezing cold and she folded her left foot behind her right knee to warm it up, then switched sides to warm the other foot. It took longer for her heart to stop hammering in her ribcage. If this was perfectly safe, what must grave danger feel like?
I rather have the soul of a copy editor (a term I prefer to hyphenate--"copy-editor"), so all this is of great satisfaction to me...


  1. Italicizing things is one of my favorite things to do, all day, as I enter in copyediting changes. So when I learned about word-as-word, I became quite amped.

    I also fetishize italicizing the punctuation that follows titles and other italicized phrases. It's like eating the poppy-seeds or garlic bits or onion-flakes that have fallen off of a bagel--a bagel one eats while reading The New York Times.

  2. OK, this gets my vote for "comment of the month," I should give you a prize!

  3. It does sound helpful to have someone check for errors and inconsistencies. My copy editor did not do that sort of thing; luckily quite a lot of mistakes were caught by the Dutch translators in time to be fixed in the English edition.

  4. I suppose I've got the soul of a copy editor too, for I'd query 'freezing cold' (redundant or emphasis?) and 'her heart to stop hammering in her ribcage' (where else would it hammer?).

    Couldn't resist but not meant nastily!

  5. How, please how, are you so productive? Your output is astonishing. Please either tell us your secret or immediately clone your DNA and sell it online ... !!

    Congrats on delivering the manuscript!

  6. What I need most right now is a clone to whom I can delegate all sleep-related responsibilities, not doing too well on that front right now!