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.