Copy Edits

Posted: September 9th, 2012 under Editing.
Tags: , ,

Copy edit checking is under way.  There is muttering, mumbling, and thoughtful staring.    Marking, leaving alone, and changing.

And so on.   The copy edits were crammed into a box a little too flat and far too long,  so they were/are mussed and rumpled, but I’m smoothing and flattening and will send them back in a box that fits.

There will be a few things to talk to Editor about.   (Have I mentioned here how nice it was to meet Editor at WorldCon?  Lovely.    If I had to change Editors mid-series, and I did, I was certainly on the lucky side of the street with this one.)


  • Comment by Genko — September 9, 2012 @ 4:40 pm


    Glad you got a good one. Muttering and mumbling make many manic. Or mopey?

  • Comment by Elizabeth D. — September 9, 2012 @ 9:27 pm


    Best wishes on this stage in the book.

    Years ago, I had a friend in NYC who would get up early, feed her cats, putter around her house, and then go back to bed with a manuscript propped on her lap. She was an excellent editor, and showed me some of the manuscripts. Of course, she could see things that I couldn’t, and fix them. She always had work. Good editors are rare.

  • Comment by JohnMc — September 10, 2012 @ 1:34 pm


    I’m glad that you like your editor,writing life I dare say would be a little ‘difficult’ if you did not.

  • Comment by elizabeth — September 10, 2012 @ 5:00 pm


    Elizabeth D: I’m sure you know this, but for others who might not: “editors” and “copy editors” are two different kinds of fish, and one of the worst things a copy editor can do is try to be a structural editor and rewrite the book.

    JohnMc. I’ve been lucky with editors. Few serious disagreements, and in general all sides behaved like grownups.

    Genko. “Munchy,” alas. Almost a whole bag of gingersnaps disappeared this afternoon.

  • Comment by elizabeth — September 10, 2012 @ 7:29 pm


    200 pages of copy edits down. Two things I need to look at fresh in the morning (both from the last hour, so I’m not sure I was fully understanding why the CE changed my wording.) I wish CEs would simply query repeated words in a sentence instead of changing one of them–they never make the change I would, and sometimes I want the echo. They don’t understand that putting in a multi-syllable word where I had a one-syllable changes the whole feel of that phrase (and sentence.) And vowel sounds matter…rare to find one with an ear who grasps that. Oh, well. Far from the worst I ever had, and I don’t foresee major problems.

  • Comment by elizabeth — September 11, 2012 @ 8:51 am


    CE muttering. For example: Original form was “Once on the roof, they…” and CE changed it to “Once they were on the roof, they…”

    Now, given the full passage, it’s clear that “Once on the roof…” means “Once those people listed in the previous sentence, who were planning to go on the roof, were on the roof…” I defy any of you to be confused without the CE-added “they were” and it clutters the sentence, slows it down, and changes the prosody.

    Similarly, the CE prefers “the” to more specific or less specific (as needed) modifiers. He keeps changing “his” or “her” to “the” when the POV is thinking about, being aware of, the possession of that whatever-it-is. “The” is, in my opinion, an overused article, often “definite” in the wrong way. It implies that there’s one and only one of something in that locality, or it specifies something previously identified. Changing “his exit” to the “the exit” presumes there’s only one exit (wrong) and removes the connection to the person who’s heading for it. Besides, the person heading for is thinking of it as his chosen exit.

    Not a bad CE, but the kind who goes for the humdrum end of clarity and assumes he knows what I meant. Also he didn’t know what a pell was. Needs a bigger dictionary. Mutter, mutter, mutter.

  • Comment by Genko — September 11, 2012 @ 9:12 am


    Yes, it’s difficult when people have a different “ear” for language. I agree that this sounds like slightly beyond copyediting to me.

    I had to look up pell also — maybe he just meant that it’s an unfamiliar word to many and to consider changing it. But these occasional old words fit the world you have created, and make us stretch a bit. I can usually figure it out in context, and as you say, there are always dictionaries, and I like learning new words (old ones too).

  • Comment by Jenn — September 11, 2012 @ 9:15 am



    When the bag of gingersnaps beckon remember how many miles on Grace (the assassin bike) you will need to pedal. Does Paksworld have/need an assassins guild or do they fall under the thieves?

    Sending you prayers of inner peace over copy edits.

  • Comment by patrick — September 11, 2012 @ 12:07 pm


    The comment about a bigger dictionary and pell sent me to google. More challenging than some searches due to “Pell Grants” and similar noise, but once I added “pell training medieval” I got what I needed. The following link is to a collection of essays that others interested in the history of combat training may find particularly enlightening:
    Those who expected to fight for survival took their training seriously. Armor and weapons certainly gave an edge, but training and experience were more important to survival. Paks or Dorrin or any veteran with nothing but a club would defeat an untrained beginner in the finest equipment, as our dear author has demonstrated in various places in her novels. Modern readers (copy editors?) without martial experience might not understand this truth, which is why reading details about Paks training in Sheepfarmer’s Daughter was an important part of educating the readers to Paks’s transformation from peasant to warrior. Thus the value in using the correct technical terms, such as pell. If she had been part of a mounted company, we would have learned about the quintain as well.

  • Comment by Ginny W. — September 11, 2012 @ 2:53 pm


    Some simple syntax slides smoothly off the pen.

  • Comment by Genko — September 11, 2012 @ 4:16 pm


    Wow, that’s a terrific site on the pell. That use didn’t come up in my brief dictionary search (and of course I didn’t have the context, so what did I know?).

  • Comment by greycats — September 11, 2012 @ 5:04 pm


    A pell might also be a piece of parchment. The word is probably the ancestor of “fell” (a noun) that might be a little more commonly used. At least “fell” appeared in a document written in the 1960s that told me how to prepare a leg of lamb for baking: be sure to remove the fell, was the gist of the instruction–not that any lamb I ever bought had the skin still on. “P”s and “f”s change places from time to time. Apparently the common origin was the Roman word “pellis” meaning skin or hide.

    I expect that Book IV has more fighting than feasting, though. So, pell’s martial associations, (from which we may have the word, pell-mell) are likely more apt.

  • Comment by Nadine Barter Bowlus — September 11, 2012 @ 8:03 pm


    @ patrick. Thanks for the web reference. So Paks was learning to use a battle axe using a pell. Cool. A new word for my life list.

  • Comment by Abigail Miller — September 11, 2012 @ 8:52 pm


    Just to put in the “it could be worse” column, have you heard about CJ Cherryh’s experience with a CE last December? Among many other changes, she (the editor) rendered all the dialog of an alien teen-ager into standard business English! About 8 changes per page, very few of which were acceptable.

    To avoid introducing all the new typos that would result from recorrecting the CE’s “corrected” file, I believe Cherryh finally submitted a new clean file, into which she had incorporated those edits she accepted.

    And didn’t you have a similar experience a few books ago? There does seem to be a shortage of good copy editors who “get” F/SF.

  • Comment by Elizabeth D. — September 11, 2012 @ 9:37 pm


    Elizabeth, I know that a copy-editor and a book editor are different, but my friend edited technical books and textbooks, which (oh my) cut corners by employing one for both, because the publisher assumed that the professors knew how to present their material. That was a major publisher too. She would blow up every so often, because the professors had less sense of presentation than a writer of literature, and she would have to point out major problems.

    As to the specific edits: I totally agree with you, Elizabeth, although I am hardly the grammarian about whom your mother warned you. If I had had a brain. …If one “had” is deleted, it would mean that I am a pinky without a brain. With both “had”s, I was once a pinky, but perhaps now I might be a genius. If the copy editor does not know some Latin which has a past tense and a doubly past tense before the past, or at least some of the Romance languages, he/she would not be able to comprehend this. That doubly-past tense is part of English, but some who have not had a high school education do not realize it.

    I would suggest that some people read a Latin grammar book, not to learn Latin, but to learn all the little ins and outs of words; for example, gossip involves a very strange and advanced verb tense than only a teenager can comprehend, which is probably the reason that teenage brains practice this exiting and rare form of grammar. Likewise, stylistics allows the writer to refer to a previous sentence within a paragraph, or within a longer sentence. I love the book, “The Transitive Vampire.”

    For those unfamiliar: “Pell” is a very common term in a peculiar medieval almost-reenactment organization, called the “S.C.A.,” or “the Society for Creative Anachronism.” People practice heavy weapons fighting by hitting thick rattan sticks on old telephone poles (a “pell”). I had a Japanese friend who practiced Japanese sword fighting the same way with a wooden stick. It is much more difficult than it sounds. And yes, the S.C.A. also has a few who ride horses and practice archery from horseback, although most archers stand on two feet. And a few who practice the coursing of hounds. And many who practice crafts.

    My daughter Pamela is recovering nicely from surgery for endometriosis; I hope her pain is less for a few months.

  • Comment by elizabeth — September 11, 2012 @ 10:25 pm


    Nadine: It wasn’t called a pell in Divided Allegiance because she was training in Fintha, where the term is not used (because of its aristocratic associations–it came with the magelords.) It’s used in Tsaia in some aristocratic households.

    Historically, pells were sometimes just sections of tree trunk, and sometimes “suited” out with padding (to protect the edges and points of swords) or even armor. I imagine that they were also marked with “target areas” for point practice, which is the specific reference from Limits of Power. I find in doing point practice that I need a spot or something on the thing I’m hitting, or I can fool myself.

  • Comment by elizabeth — September 11, 2012 @ 10:28 pm


    Oh, I know it could be worse. I’ve had worse. Most writers have. Judith Tarr had one years ago who–in a novel set in the 11th c.–changed all the historical names of places to the modern names. Among other things. This is mild, really, just annoying in places. And he’s catching the things he should catch.

  • Comment by elizabeth — September 11, 2012 @ 10:44 pm


    Abigail: I read Cherryh’s blog post…ye gods what a bad CE. But typical of the type. I had one who changed words she didn’t know to her best (always wrong) guess, who changed contracted verbs to uncontracted–and uncontracted to contracted–on some system of her own that I could not figure out…in dialogue. I think it was the same one (memory fails) who wanted wanted change the command to “Man weapons!” to “Staff weapons!” And other stuff, rewriting whole sentences to make them kludgy and boring, changing words and meanings freely, etc. But missed things she should have caught.

    So no, this one isn’t that bad. There’s not even a STET on every page.

  • Comment by elizabeth — September 11, 2012 @ 11:01 pm


    patrick: I walk a fairly fine line in using technical terms in Paksworld stories. “Pell” works, but “quintain” is iffy…pell is the sort of word that they would have in Tsaia (it’s not used in Fintha) and in Aarenia…it could be an Old Aarean word. But quintain, to me, sounds decidedly European. You’ll notice when I write about using swords, I avoid most of the traditional language derived from French. The French sticks out.

    You’re right that regular practice will get a fighter to one point, but only combat experience takes the fighter to the peak of his/her ability. Yes, Paks, Dorrin, Kieri, Arcolin…all can defeat the “school-trained” fighter. Limits of Power has some good one on one and small group fights, some more tightly matched than others. The royal salle in Lyonya is the one every “period” fencer I know would like to have; the royal salle in Tsaia is elegant, but not as practical.

  • Comment by Celina — September 12, 2012 @ 2:59 am


    It must be very troublesome to not use too modern words and language while writing a historical or fantasy novel. But at the same time, not too old words neither.
    When I was younger I usually had to check a english encyclopedia and then a english to swedish dictionary while reading fantasy. It was a bit annoying but then I learned alot of new words, so now I really don’t have to check that often.

  • Comment by Gareth — September 12, 2012 @ 6:55 am


    What would CE do to the punctuation (deliberately omitted here). In an exam Elazabeth has a choice between ‘had’ and ‘had had’. Elizabeth unlike Michael had had had had had had had the examiner’s approval.

    Or (no you shouldn’t start a sentence with or) commenting on the calligraphy of a pub sign “There should be more space between Pig and and and and and Whistle”. Don’t you just love English…

    By the way does ‘Who’s left?’ mean who remains or who went away…

  • Comment by Mollie Marshall — September 12, 2012 @ 7:33 am


    It’s probably been mentioned before, but ‘had had’, along with ‘that that’ was item 7 in Jurisfiction session 40320 (Jasper Fforde’s ‘The well of lost plots’, pp.256-7 in the British pbk ed.). I’d type some of it, but italics and underlining don’t show up in this box, and putting the italicised had hads in inverted commas spoils the joke somewhat. The summary of the problem has 11 consecutive hads, some in italics, and some separated by appropriate punctuation.
    In ordinary text, even when grammatically required, the repetition can be a little disconcerting and might interrupt the smooth flow of the sentence.
    I hope the rest of the copy edit process goes without further trouble.

  • Comment by Richard — September 13, 2012 @ 2:10 am


    Good one Mollie (and Gareth of course). For those who don’t have a copy of Justin Fforde, here’s a discussion,76154

    Have a go at the “that that is is” conundrum posted there.

    My browser does show italics in this box but to post them I have to use html markup. (without spaces) to start and to finish.

    Elizabeth (#19): yes, I see that just being trained for half a year by Dorrin, who knows what is really needed, is what gave Beclan his chance against two (presumably only “school trained”, or not much more) adult attackers. (Yes I know there was more but no need to go into that now.)

  • Comment by Richard — September 13, 2012 @ 2:13 am


    Bother: putting spaces into the html didn’t stop it from being taken as html. Another go:
    Start with a
    That group of three turns italics on

    Turn off with a

  • Comment by Richard — September 13, 2012 @ 2:17 am


    *Screams and grabs hair*
    How can I post it?

    [I] for on, [/I] for off, but with the chevron-shaped type of brackets (upper case of the , and . keys on my keyboard)

  • Comment by Daniel Glover — September 13, 2012 @ 6:33 am



    You cannot. They are keeping the server safe from computer scoundrels like you. Such things as a you are attempting to use can be use to start internet worms/viruses/colds/flues/etc.

  • Comment by Daniel Glover — September 13, 2012 @ 1:36 pm



    I realized I forgot to add (in the vein of our heroine’s “thief but not a thief”) 😉

  • Comment by elizabeth — September 15, 2012 @ 8:20 am


    I swear I’m going to write a book for copy editors someday. Or maybe for Production. A book that explains why doing their job the way most do it now slows down the writer-end of copy edits, increases the number of errors in finished books, and has created a hate/hate relationship between writers and copy editors that is a) not necessary, b) not healthy, and c) makes books worse, not better.

    Example from around midnight last night. A character says to another, “I still don’t know how to do that well…[more stuff]” and the copy editor, for some reason, chose to see “well” as a a commentary and re-punctuated it as “I still don’t know how to do that. Well, …[more stuff.]” Now in my feeble understanding of the language, to “do something well” is perfectly understandable, and readers will get that this means doing it…well, WELL, as opposed to ILL. “That” in this case has a direct referent in the previous sentence. There was no confusion, until the CE decided that the “well” was verbal placeholding, as it often is the equivalent of “Uh” or “Um” in speech, broke the sentence, and used the “well” that way.

    Granted, my temper isn’t at its best at midnight when I’ve been working on copy edits for hours, but still. STILL.

    This is not an incompetent copy editor. He’s caught things that needed to be caught, including some I’m embarrassed to find still in the ms. But the endless intrusion of his sensibility (he does not grasp why, as flavorings, some older past tense forms are used; he’s fond of unnecessary “that” and unnecessary articles) means that his wrong choices clutter most pages.

    And this slows the process. It requires me to slow down, see if the problem he thinks he’s fixing is a problem at all, and then see if his solution is tolerable or needs to be fixed another way. So far there have been only two actual queries, both of them where the solution was obvious and he found it. He has not queried on multiple-multiple things that a) weren’t problems and b) were problems for which he found the wrong (for this book) solution. He routinely chooses the flattest, dullest, more “standard English for 8th-graders” ways of expressing a meaning–as if readers were supposed to be children who could not grasp (for instance) an implied subject.

    Twenty years ago, my first CEs were far more likely to query than change word choices, phrasing, etc. Now nearly all of them leap in to make changes. Track Changes make it worse for the writer, harder to deal with (supposedly faster, and probably it is, if you’re the person intruding your changes. But not if you’re the writer who finds the colored words in line with your own visually difficult in the first place.

  • Comment by Chuck — September 15, 2012 @ 9:48 pm


    When I still had my editing job (aerospace company), I preferred working with a paper copy to mark up. I’d tell the authors to turn on track changes if they had to make their edits electronically (I couldn’t convince most of them that we could get it done more quickly if they marked up the copy instead of changing the file). But I’d print out the tracked version and look at the paper copy of that, which was almost always easier for my eyes to untangle than on the screen. I understand that’s probably not an option for you, based on previous comments about your own printer, not to mention the extra cost. In my case, the employer had large capacity color printers that we used. But it sure was easier than looking at the damn screen.

  • Comment by Chuck — September 15, 2012 @ 9:51 pm


    One of the hardest things for copy editors to learn is not to intrude their voice, but instead let the voice of the author come through; but it’s a lesson that needs to be learned early in an editor’s career, probably from a mentor. And who gets much mentoring on the job these days in publishing?

  • Comment by Richard — September 16, 2012 @ 3:33 am


    give me your last post and I’ll change learned to learnt. (*wink*

  • Comment by Daniel Glover — September 16, 2012 @ 6:47 am



    Training on the job? But that is an unnecessary overhead expense. We should be able to hire someone off the street with the exact skills we need, even as jobs skill sets are changing at such a rapid pace. (At least that’s what I’m hearing in the academic side of the house.)

  • Comment by Genko — September 16, 2012 @ 2:45 pm


    Yeah, training. When I started typesetting, I was told that it would be a few years at least before I would be considered proficient. I thought that was bunk, and figured after 6 months that I had the gist of it. Which I did. But 3 or 4 years later I realized that there is something to that time and experience thing, and having people point out why this works and that doesn’t is valuable over time. We didn’t do formal training, but we worked together in a group (and had [gasp!] proofreaders) and gave each other a lot of help and feedback, working on each others’ jobs, etc. It really was terrific training.

    I’ll also agree with the paper copy thing. I find “track changes” very difficult to use and confusing on the screen. And the query thing. It’s ultimately up to the writer (right?) how things get phrased, unless it’s egregiously impossible to understand, and even then … I think of philosophical and academic stuff, and religious stuff, and how some Zen stuff is *supposed* to be difficult to understand — that is, the point is that you let go of your thinking brain and let some deeper awareness come in.

    Okay, fiction isn’t like that, exactly, and it’s useful to know that someone reading it misunderstood what you were intending. But still, there’s a flow to it that it is not so good to disrupt.

  • Comment by Elizabeth D. — September 16, 2012 @ 8:11 pm


    Copy editors are the product of modern college English departments that train students to be advertising copy editors for cereal ads. If you are not a donkey, and like the full banquet of English vocabulary and grammar, it is very frustrating to be edited by somebody who has been trained to consider any sentence longer than ten words to be wrong.

    People are able to learn terms in context and grammar by usage. Modern intelligence tests claim that our children are several points smarter than we are, including verbally, but I have not always seen the evidence of this.

    I have seen an example of a paper written by a college English major who could write sentences and paragraphs in interesting English, surpassing my grammar and complexity. She went to work at a collection agency; I wish she could become a copy editor instead.

  • Comment by elizabeth — September 16, 2012 @ 9:05 pm


    And they’re done. Whew! I have a couple of other things to include with the package I’m sending back, and will have the CE ms. printed by someone with a faster printer, so I have a file copy of what’s been done. Then it all goes back, before the deadline, which will make Production happy.

    I’m sure that CEs find SF and fantasy hardest of the genres to copy edit. We make up words, we may choose to use older words and forms of words to create a mood, we definitely muck about with punctuation to, as C.J. Cherryh says, “force a reading.” Unless a CE is familiar with a given writer’s work–and appreciates what the writer’s trying to do–the CE has no real basis for applying a different set of rules to it. And they don’t let authors connect with CEs (and I can see why…though it isn’t just writers who are abusive, she mutters, remembering the one who put snarky notes in the margins and wrote her own version of text between the lines…but it does make it difficult-to-impossible for the CE to do it “right.”)

  • Comment by Iphinome — September 17, 2012 @ 4:34 pm


    Finished copy edits calls for a celebration.

    Were it I, it would be time for the mixing of hot and chocolate.

  • Comment by elizabeth — September 18, 2012 @ 6:25 pm


    Copy Edits Away! was the cry (you can imagine the 9.6 pound load as a good bomb…) when I left FedEx around noon with the copy of the copy edits (which took a lot longer to do than I thought it would) and the Tracking Number to send to Associate Managing Editor (IOW, the hinge between Editorial and Production, if I understand this correctly.) Came home, emailed her to give her the good news that it’s on its way, the date it’s supposed to arrive (Thursday)and said Tracking Number.

    I have since done two rides on the mountain bike, the ground being dry enough in some places and–though not sticky-muddy–very soft in others. Soft makes me work too hard, still. First time was just a half-loop in the north horse lot, then across the near meadow, then back (each segment separated by recovering breath. The half-loop was partly on really soft stuff on the up-slope…ouch.

    I did, however, get the bike (sometimes riding, sometimes walking with it) all the way to the creek woods on the second (late afternoon) ride. Not into (the paths in there are not bike-safe for riders like me and maybe not anyone–haven’t done trail maintenance in six months at least) but along the eastern margin–which I rode (the eastern margin from the path we call Center Walk down to the south end then east to Cloud Pavilion.)

    New Bike might be here as soon as Friday. It’s a step-through, with a frame my size (small–my height is in my torso, not legs), and designed to be ridden sitting up. I will be able to get on and off it without laying it down almost flat.

  • Comment by Karen — September 19, 2012 @ 4:43 am


    Congratulations on both finishing your copy edits and on Grace.

    I did a short stint as a writing-teacher-in-the-guise of editor. I will say, emphatically, that I could never be a copy editor (I’m not a grammarian, for one!).

    I worked hard with science students, trying to get them to speak English about their favorite fields of study. Often, I did all the things of which you complained to strong-arm them to write in plain English. I cannot regret what I did, because I cannot regret their results.

    They were not, however, you. Natural story-tellers don’t need to be told how to tell a story (part of my job was to unleash the natural story-teller in people who didn’t think they had one). Natural story-tellers are much more likely to be like people riding a bike — they may need the occasional correction re: did you really intend to turn there, and is there a shorter path in between because you seem to have gone out of your way to get where you’re going without enjoying better scenery.

    Copy-editors, imho, don’t even get to address these questions. They just make sure that the pedals turned smoothly and the brakes and gears worked the way they should.

    This is not a denigration. This is simply a mission statement, and I wish you a better experience next time!

  • Comment by Chuck — September 19, 2012 @ 6:34 am


    You don’t have time to write that book for copy editors, but maybe while things are fresh in your mind you can put down a page or two of instructions for the editor of the next MS, and insist (bully/nag/whatever) that the editor give it to the CE. If it speeds up the process they ought to go for it.

  • Comment by elizabeth — September 19, 2012 @ 7:14 am


    Karen: When I was in school, long ago, I learned correct formal writing…and am grateful for having the kind of instruction most kids do not get now. Natural story-tellers, like natural athletes, do need instruction and plenty of guided practice to reach their potential. Those who haven’t had such instruction early will need it later.

    Moreover, all writers benefit from thoughtful editing. That’s not just my experience, but the experience of the best writers I know. Writers are too close to their own work–know what they were thinking as they wrote–and thus cannot see everything a good editor sees. I’ve dedicated books to my editors, thanked them publicly. I’ve thanked copy editors who found mistakes and pointed them out.

    I agree that a copy editor’s lot is a difficult one, especially as they’re mostly underpaid and forced to work in a rush (to make a living, if not to satisfy a publisher on a fast turnaround.) They’re expected to mark the manuscript for Production, including all the book designer’s codes, as well as find any errors in the text itself.

    But though copy editors should confine themselves to “making sure the pedals turn smoothly…” some ignore the pedals, gears, and brakes, and decide to redesign the bicycle to suit their own idea of what a book should be–turning the mountain bike into a recumbent, so to speak, or a commuter bike into a tricycle. Sometimes this has to do with “house style” and sometimes with the copy editor’s own notions. (One copy editor even attempted to impose her own religious beliefs on a manuscript, along with snarky comments to the writer in the margin.)

    This is where the trouble arises, especially in SF/F. SF/F writers must do non-standard things with language–from making up words to using nonstandard syntax–to create the unreal worlds and cultures that are the hallmark of this very broad genre. Visual media call in the special effects for this; all we have is words and punctuation marks. So copy editors for SF/F books have a harder job, if they do it right…and if they take the easy way out and treat everything nonstandard as an error, they make it much harder for the writer.

    The degradation of language (as I see it) that accompanied the failure to teach grammar in what used to be grammar school has led to “rules” intended to clarify meaning for those who read only at low levels. These rules, applied to imaginative writing, do active harm to such writing. It’s one thing to teach students how to write clear, unambiguous prose–and quite another to treat those who already write well as ignorant students in need of instruction.

    Still, even the best writers err, and that’s why I will never refuse to consider an editor’s (or copy editor’s) comments. And that’s why it takes time and raises blood pressure. Every comment, every correction, must be considered, evaluated, and dealt with appropriately. Who judges appropriateness? I do, until the day that the copy editor’s name appears on the cover so she or he can take responsibility for his/her opinions.

    After all, it’s the writer who gets the criticism later. The writer who must put up with people who write or confront her personally to tell her about the errors in the book, assuming that the errors are the writer’s fault and the writer should immediately go fix them. If a copy editor’s “fix” results in a clumsy sentence, readers assume the writer intended that clumsy sentence.

    If on every page of an 862 page manuscript there are multiple CE marks changing punctuation and word choice and construction…more mistakes will be made. Some by the CE, and some by the writer trying to deal with the CE’s work.

  • Comment by Karen — September 19, 2012 @ 8:51 am


    Dear hostess,

    I have no excuses for my failures of grammar.


    I can only say that in grammar school I was more interested in Chaucer (yes, I read him in the original because there was a book on the shelf that the teacher probably read during her lunch hour) and Beowulf (also in the original — just another one on the shelf) than I was in “I before E, except after C.”

    All of this caused much consternation to my grandmother, who taught 2nd grade for forty years, but who nevertheless encouraged me to read everything I could get my hands on.

    And it is here that I agree with you wholeheartedly — you are the author I pre-order (I have no idea who your copy-editor is, but I doubt I have the funds to support so many “wordsmiths”).

    The great gift I received in my time of mucking about with the words of budding scientists was discovering how many of them were natural story-tellers! I made a point of never asking them to accept my changes if they could come up with something better — and every single student proved that they could do so much better that I often wept with the transformation.

    This is, of course, quite different from your situation. For you (and us, your readers), each STET is lead transformed back to gold. The time it takes out of your life for you to consider what a copy-editor was trying to correct translates into paragraphs and even chapters you might have written.

    I am acutely aware of the difference.

    I just wish that more copy-editors might understand the same.

  • Comment by Karen — September 19, 2012 @ 9:58 am


    BTW, Gracious Hostess,

    I know that the references to Chaucer and Beowulf may read as pride. I was actually also an avid reader of cereal boxes (and we weren’t allowed to have cereal that had good copy).

    I merely meant that I chose good stories over “good grammar” — and, given the same choice, I’ll make the same decision today, especially if it allows me to explore the worlds your mind creates!

  • Comment by elizabeth — September 19, 2012 @ 10:10 am


    Karen: WHAT failures of grammar? Your writing makes your meaning perfectly clear. That’s all that matters. (You can see I hang out on linguistics sites sometimes, where scorn of foolish pride in grammar is slathered lavishly over any questions such as “What’s the correct form…?”) You write well and I’m sure your students learned to write well.

    The linguistics people point out that every rule has been broken by a writer usually held up as an example of good writing. The purpose of writing is communication, and writing imposes limits on the multiple means of communications open to the speaker (facial expression, gesture, pitch, tone, volume, etc.) Therefore the writer may deviate from formal correctness in order to convey the intended meaning, provided that the deviation works. If someone’s distracted by too many ellipses or dashes or exclamation points through the book, then some of those should’ve been replaced with something quieter. But otherwise, if it works for the reader and conveys the nuances the writer intended…home free, as the saying goes.

    I don’t look for lapses in other peoples’ writing, only in my own. I see them sometimes, if they really stick out (the lie/lay thing bothers me, and its/it’s mistakes take enamel off my teeth.) The rest of the time–if I get the meaning, I’m not going to critique it. (Among other things–not my job description…)

  • Comment by Karen — September 19, 2012 @ 10:58 am


    Thank you!

    And, if I may say so — your job description (at least in my mind) is to give us a fifth book to this series that comes remotely close to any of the other series you have written (now, I’m not counting, but…).

    So go forth and WRITE.

  • Comment by Sarah Stapleton — September 20, 2012 @ 6:30 am


    I’m reading a series now that is published in ebook form with minimal editing. It’s good storytelling but the lack of good editing and proof reading is distracting. In the last one, for example, instead of the character levering (or heaving?) himself to his feet, someone decided it should be “leveraging” – several times – which is bad enough in economic contexts but painful in a Regency. I’d offer to do a read through if I could.
    I’ve also read things in other books that seemed to have been added by unimaginative copy editors, not the author. I don’t remember seeing anything in your books that was jarring in that way, so you obviously do a good job with that stage.

  • Comment by Jenn — September 20, 2012 @ 12:57 pm



    So Nice to discover another cereal box reader. Of course growing up I could only read one side. The other was in french. Now I could read both sides but here that side is in spanish. I also like to read my toothpaste tubes, ingredients on the mayo jar, knitting patterns.

  • Comment by Ginny W. — September 21, 2012 @ 2:23 pm


    I am celebrating the completion of the copy edits, and envying your bike adventures.

    Chuck’s comments earlier (and some responses) reminded me that “education” is now the exclusive province of schools, whereas “on the job training” is an expensive extra. I am glad that fantasy exists to remind us of squires and apprentices and a time when “on the job training” was education.

  • Comment by Richard — September 21, 2012 @ 4:45 pm


    Karen, a late response to your #38 above: I think you described there, and very well indeed, the difference between editing and copy-editing. The copy-editor must confine his or her attention to the working of pedals, brakes and gears, because commenting on the writer’s choice of route is Editor’s job and prerogative.

  • Comment by Karen — September 21, 2012 @ 5:15 pm



    I thank you!

    I have, unfortunately, had to combine the efforts of writer and editor (I choose not to describe the reasons except to state that the effort was finally formed into textbooks!).

    Therein lies my sin; despite a wonderful copy-editor, the space that was available for each concept was more easily confined to “that fits the column” than to “that’s good and true.”

    Sad to say, my years in this mien were during G.W. Bush’s turn as President, so that (please forgive me, Gracious Hostess!) the norms of Texan Education became the norms of American Education (A.K.A., “No Child Left Behind” — or, as our major Corporate office thought of it, “no Child led ahead.”

    I did my best. I worked, at the last, more than 18 hours a day, seven days a week because I could not bear to betray my Grandmother’s 2nd grade students (she taught for over 40 years, but the ethos never wavered) by having a single sentence state a falsehood.

    This is, to be true, the terrible burden that is placed on writers, editors, and copy-editors today: because anyone, with few or no credentials, can publish something on the Internet, the ability to judge the difference between truth and conflict that has reached a premium only a few can scale.

    I will stand by the book that almost killed me (literally), but I cannot stand against the multinational corp. that lobbied for the law that has, for the most part, left kids less prepared for the world than I was at the same age.

    Such terrible lacks in formal education are one (just one) of the reasons I love the books Our Gracious Hostess writes — I want kids who will read cereal boxes to have an engaging choice that will truly educate and sustain their intelllect!

  • Comment by elizabeth — September 21, 2012 @ 10:36 pm


    Karen, you have my sympathy for your time spent on the horns of that dilemma. Texas still carries too much weight in the textbook industry, esp. since our very religiously bigoted governor carefully appoints only similar ignoramuses to the group that pronounces on textbook content.

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