October 09, 2007


amy, la petite americaine

I read so many books these days that barely seem copyedited at all... You should be glad yours is getting the royal treatment.

By the way, I really enjoyed this page.

Deanna Hoak

If you were really happy with your copyeditor (and it sounds as though you were), you can always request to have the same person on your next book; your publisher will usually make the attempt to hire them again then.

If you're interested in the minutiae of how we keep so many items in our heads, you might be interested in my post about the copyediting process. I describe a lot about it there. :-)


Interesting. For the most part, these are pretty straight-forward, but it appears that their house style is against "split infinitives". That would drive me crazy. (I much prefer "be effectively whittled" to "effectively be whittled".)


Copy editors are sainted individuals, no doubt, but yours missed the missing "a" before "formidable 1,276 pages."


But they mean different things, and so the choice must be the writer's.

What's Dantes-esque? More than one Dante?


ah, i love the smell of red pen in the morning...


Edmund Dantes is the protagonist of Count of Monte Cristo, Timothy.


It helps if the copy editor is up on pop culture. In one novel, the name Jimmy Hendricks got past the copy editor.


Congratulations on getting to this part of the publishing process! It must feel so close now, and at the same time like it's still another million years until you're done with everything that has to happen before the book comes out.

Thanks for the appreciative bits about the copy editor, too; haven't seen too many posts like that on the Web. Usually we're the bad guys, massacring gemlike prose with our red pens and our mechanical rules.

Nan Cohen

What a fun post. Have you read Nicholson Baker's essay on the history of punctuation? It's in one of his essay collections, and records his struggle with his copyeditor for The Mezzanine over hyphenated compounds and hyrbid punctuation (comma-dash, I think).


Mark, nice to see that you also use Times New Roman. And, better to have a fastidious copyeditor than a sloppy one! Good luck with the line-by-line and page-by-page re-reading.


Authors like you are a gift to copyeditors. Thanks for letting us do what we're paid to do instead of complaining every inch of the way! :)


that is exactly why i urge copyeditors not to use red pencils--no other color is as upsetting to see :)


Hate to be a pedant, but as we're talking about copy-editing: Edmond Dantès is the protagonist of The Count of Monte Cristo, Erik. Which I'm pleased to see the copy-editor above has caught the accent.


If you're truly grateful to your copy editor, ask your editor to get his name and put him in the acknowledgments. It's rarely done but greatly appreciated.


Way ahead of you, julunki!

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  • The Elegant Variation is "Fowler’s (1926, 1965) term for the inept writer’s overstrained efforts at freshness or vividness of expression. Prose guilty of elegant variation calls attention to itself and doesn’t permit its ideas to seem naturally clear. It typically seeks fancy new words for familiar things, and it scrambles for synonyms in order to avoid at all costs repeating a word, even though repetition might be the natural, normal thing to do: The audience had a certain bovine placidity, instead of The audience was as placid as cows. Elegant variation is often the rock, and a stereotype, a cliché, or a tired metaphor the hard place between which inexperienced or foolish writers come to grief. The familiar middle ground in treating these homely topics is almost always the safest. In untrained or unrestrained hands, a thesaurus can be dangerous."


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