by Laura Mahal
Like most writers, I derive great joy from the written word. I’m happy to be home in my pajamas, creating new worlds (or sending super long emails. Some of my emails might contain entire universes.) When I’m working on my own stuff, I digress down rabbit paths. I saunter into lyricism and venture onto uncharted literary terrain.
Then the other side of my brain kicks in to save the day.
Editors are worth their weight in gold, platinum, and Supreme sweatshirts.
All of us need an editor from time to time. Whether this be a developmental editor or a copy editor depends on where an author is in the process. [Note. That last sentence needs work. Go back and revise it later.] [Okay, that last sentence also needs work. It’s kind of redundant.]
Our first drafts are messy. Full of creative ideas and characters starting to come together . . . A plot that might be eighty-five-percent ready, at best.
[Wait—Is eighty-five-percent hyphenated? Did I use that ellipsis appropriately? Is that comma really necessary?]
Copy editors are a go-to resource for answering obscure questions that require hours of research in a little tome called The Chicago Manual of Style. I mean, if you think its great fun to thumb through an odd and possibly archaic numbering system in search of Grammar, Word Usage, Military Terms, and Languages Usually Transliterated (or Romanized), then you should definitely rush out to buy the CMS. It weighs in at a respectable four pounds and may earn you back your purchasing price in short order.
I love copyediting. Give me a messy manuscript, or a poorly constructed blog post, and let me fix them. Please.
[This is so confusing. So, copy editor is two words, but copyediting is all one word?] So, aah, about that. Yeah. There’s this other guidebook. It’s called The Associated Press Stylebook. Whereas the CMS is primarily used for fiction and nonfiction, the AP is the preferred reference tool for journalism. These manuals don’t always agree. They flat out don’t agree. They actually like to dual in bars on trivia nights.
Copyeditor or copy editor, which is correct? Umm, they both are. It depends on whom you are referencing as your source.
Let’s talk about dictionaries.
If you live in London, then you aren’t too far from OXFORD, but the towns of Merriam and Webster are light-years away. The UK gold standard is the Oxford English Dictionary, which celebrated its ninetieth birthday in 2018.
In the U.S., Merriam and Webster are your good friends and Trivia Night partners. Not sure whether a word is hyphenated? Check Merriam-Webster. If you choose to flat-out thumb your nose at their recommendations, then here’s a useful takeaway: If you’re going to “go with your gut,” then be consistent about it. (Consistency is key.)
By the way—that dictionary programmed into your computer? It’s only as reliable as the person who programmed it AND it maybe a nefarious plot to offer you poor advice. It will say “hyphenate here!” and will do so with such cheer and colorful squiggly lines that you might be tempted. Lucky for you, the CMS has a ten-page handy dandy chart you can easily refer to when you want to know whether or not you should hyphenate “poorly-written blog post.” You are correct. This blog post is poorly written. But you do not want to hyphenate adverbs ending in -ly.
"Won, true love"
If a second grader sends a Valentine, scrawled with the message: “Your my won, true love,” by golly, that’s cute. If any of you does it, err, then you would probably benefit from hiring someone to proofread your writing.
Reward: The first person who points out at least fifty percent of my mistakes will earn a free hour of copyediting. Or a long email—you’re choice.