hail to the copy editor

Yesterday, INTERN's book's editor forwarded her the copy edited version of INTERN's forthcoming book—huzzah! It feels like months since there's been any blips on the editorial radar, so seeing the copy edited manuscript in her inbox made INTERN's brain tingle with something like terror and relief rolled into one. Despite having seen and handled copy edited manuscripts as an intern and knowing what they look like, it was still uncanny to see INTERN's own sentences and paragraphs littered with yellow highlighting and lots of [comments and questions and tearings of new grammatical assholes in brackets in bold].

As she read through the manuscript, INTERN started to feel more and more mortified. The copy editor had caught so many silly mistakes, pointed out places where a topic mentioned in an introduction was never addressed in the chapter, and even raised questions about the political correctness of some of INTERN's word choices. "Oh man!" thought INTERN. "Copy Editor must think INTERN is a fool! Copy Editor must be wondering what Publisher was thinking when they offered to publish such a cretinous and unworthy INTERN!"

It was like getting dressed up and brushing one's hair very carefully and thinking one looks quite respectable indeed, only to have one's big-mouth best friend show up and say "You can't go out like that— your skirt is tucked into your underwear and you smell like Chewbacca." You feel relief that someone caught you in time. Adoration for their superior wisdom and objective eye. Lingering embarrassment, mingled with wounded pride, mingled with overwhelming gratitude.

Copy editing is not for sissies. A good copy editor does not humor you. A good copy editor does not chuckle warmly at your tendency to misspell the names of foreign dignitaries or diseases and let it stand 'cause it's cute. A good copy editor will kindly but firmly tell you that your phrasing is unclear, your language offensive, and your punctuation laughable. These people are frighteningly smart and thorough and have your manuscript's best interests at heart and deserve all the love and respect in the universe.

So hail to copy editors! And to INTERN's copy editor: if you're reading this, thank you.

Comments

  1. LOL, you smell like Chewbacca! Love it.

    I like Intern's view on it. Some people would let it get them down, but not Intern.

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  2. Yes, hail and huzzah! Copy editors do deserve a big thank you. I imagine they don't get thanked very often.

    It takes guts to swallow your pride, swipe on some heavy duty wookie deodorant, and thank the person that called you out on your weaknesses. Congrats on the copy edited book!

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  3. I have a huge, professional crush on all copy editors. Seriously, it tickles me pink to get copy edits. They're fascinating.

    Of course, I also subscribe to the Chicago Manual of Style online, and often procrastinate writing by reading it for fun, LOL. Copy editors rock.

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  4. I think I just got the bejesus scared out of me, while I'm waiting for my own verdict. (Hugs)Indigo

    P.S. I'm trying to remember how to breath.

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  5. I agree completely and I'm also AMAZED when the copyeditor catches discrepancies that are more than a hundred pages apart.

    Above all, I'm amazed there is someone in the world who reads my books that closely!

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  6. I WANT a hard-nosed copy-editor! Everyone who's actually read my book, including my agent, has just been so goddamn nice to me. I lay awake at night thinking about all the bad reviews I'll get because no one has spotted my continuity issues or character discrepancies or fascist tendencies. Though as soon as I get a copy editor I'll probably be moaning that she/he won't cut me some slack. Such is life.

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  7. Holy Krakow. You tend to display a certain familiarity and aptitude with language, if your blog posts are to be believed. So if YOU were cut down so easily, what hope do the rest of us (who, ahem, are known grammatical violators) have?

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  8. Good on you for showing humility in what is a very scary and self-doubt-inducing process.

    Huzzah is right!

    I'm glad to know my critique group aren't the only ones who tear manuscripts to shreds and still expect it to get published :)

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  9. Yeah, "Hail!" and all, but it remains a horrifying experience, that first glimpse of the manuscript when it returns home with the copy editor's deluge of tiny marks defacing nearly every paragraph, marks which are unknown to those of us who haven't been to the secret tiny-mark class.

    It's not nearly so bad once you are taught the guild handshake, but at first it is like no other experience I have had. Honestly. And it wasn't my book...it was my wife's.

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  10. My copyeditor is my PIMP. I mean it. He beats me up and then sends me back on the street with a bloody nose and I love him for it.

    Honestly-- a good copyeditor is invaluable.

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  11. One way to avoid some copyediting embarassment is to become a novice copyeditor. There are many online classes and certificate programs available.

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  12. Copyeditor or copy editor? Chicago stands behind the compounded word, Associated Press favors separate words. Prose or journalism leanings? Remarkable how one simple style attribute can reveal much about a writer or an editor. Other one word, two words, hyphenated words can reveal more, like what era a writer's reference resources, when applied, correspond to. Co-operation, Web site, nurse-practioner, tractor-trailer, bull's-eye, eight ball.

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  13. Congrats! I know the more I worked through the copy editing done, the better I felt about my work and you should too! I am sending it back for another round and having just reread it, wow, so much better! I almost want to read the whole book again. :)

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  14. I want to buy INTERN's book when it comes out.

    I'm more interested in INTERN's copy editor's warts-n-all expose though.

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  15. What a brave and wonderful service you provide to us as of yet unrepped and unpubbed writers. It's a great lesson that the work does not end once the manuscript is accepted.

    The process is long, but definitely worth it. Huzzah is right!

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  16. A copy editor is like a physical therapist. If she doesn't hurt you, make you do things you never would do and engender deep hate as she does it -- she's not doing her job!
    But the payoff is worth it.

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  17. Aww! This is such a lovely tribute. You're right copy editors (as well as copyeditors, dear Anonymous) want you to succeed as much as you do. While the results may feel cruel, that's certainly not the intent. I know how hard it is feeling like someone is criticizing your beautiful newborn.

    I personally do not look down upon writers because of errors they've made. My own writing is full of them, because I'm using a different part of my brain. However, I do lose respect for writers who so stubbornly resist any edits that every little comma becomes a fight. It's like they forget that we're on their side.

    Besides, maybe this process is a good way to prepare you for reviewers! Now those people can go out of their way to be cruel. I'd rather face a copy editor than a reviewer any day.

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  18. For the record, copyeditors quite like this post.

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  19. Great post, INTERN.

    And hail to you for having the strength of character to reveal your vulnerabilities and self-doubt. A truly good writer (and publisher) recognizes the importance and necessity of a good copyeditor.

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  20. Every time someone says "huzzah!" I think of the final scenes of all Star Wars Movies and the campy/overdramatized/cliched celebrations (or the wedding announcement scene from Princess Bride).

    ...which brings me back to Chewbackup (no foriegn dignitary but sounds like a disease).

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  21. And my hands get clammy just thinking that my life will some day be graced by the presence of a wonderiffical, totally objective, tough-loving copy editor! I appreciate your positive take. So many writers want to live with a victim-mentality: egg-shell crust, smooth, gooey interiors with fragile egos and a well-practiced "me-against-the-publishing-world" routine.

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  22. A website is usually composed of just words and images, with the images comprising also of animations and videos. SEO Copy Editing the most integral part of any web page is the copy or the text that conveys the message of the whole site, and of the business itself, to its target audience.

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