Wednesday, January 31, 2007

As Per

The phrase "as per" is common, but it is grammatically incorrect. "Per" means "according to," so you would say "Per our conversation," not "As per our conversation."

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Chicago Manual

I thought you might be interested in reading what one reviewer of the latest edition of Chicago Manual has to say about it. The article appeared in Slate.

My thanks to David for sending the link.

Monday, January 29, 2007

The Copyeditor's Goal

Chapter four discusses the editor's role in technical terms. However, what is the copyeditor's ultimate goal? Overall, what does the copyeditor strive to do through the first, second, and third edits? I was wondering if the copyeditor strives for perfection. Or if, perhaps, it's something more realistic or practical, such as clarity or readability. Maybe we hope to polish a rough stone. But do we hope to make it perfect?


A friend of mine who works in advertising told me a story about consistency. He missed an error in a piece of copy that went out in an e-mail. The copy was slated to be reproduced in a variety of forms across a number of web sites and e-mails. Instead of fixing the error in the reproductions he and the rest of the account team decided that the mistake should stay, feeling consistency to be more important than correctness. Let me add that the mistake was barely noticeable. I think it was an extra space around em-dashes, or something like that.

Now in chapter 4 the book states, "Sometimes, consistency rules." I guess I'd like your take on qualifying the "sometimes" in that sentence. In my friends story the break in consistency would have likely drawn more attention than the error he missed. But readers might accept more egregious errors if they kept consistently reappearing. Do you have any examples that might serve as a guide? How are decisions like the one in my example reached at publications?


research responsibilities

Part of the copyediting tasks listed in Ch. 4 discuss researching missing information (#20, p.59). How much research is usually expected of a copyeditor when an issue arises, and at what point do you query and leave it to the author to fix?

(from Rebecca)


I also had a question about format. The book says that copyeditors aren't responsible for rewriting or reformat issues. So if the piece needs extensive reformatting - maybe one big paragraph that would be served better in the form of a list or with bullets - would you just make a note and send it back to the writer to do? I just read through an article for a friend and planned to copyedit, but I ended up changing the format and it was so extensive that I don't know if I could have added all the marks needed in the space. Would you just squeeze them in however you could?

semicolons to commas

I remember going over changing punctuation by just making the correction (ie: turning a period into a colon by adding the other dot and perhaps circling it for clarity). However, in Exercise 6, paragraph 4, where they are changing the semicolons to commas, they just include the caret over the semicolon. Is that supposed to mean just cover the dot with your mark, therefore making it a comma with a caret over it? The second one still has the dot visible - is that the standard that the typesetter would just know to change to a comma because of the marking?

Work speed

In Chapter 4, page 37, the book says, “On average, an experienced copyeditor can edit about five pages of double-spaced text an hour.” As Pat also mentioned in class, this speed is the case for a full-fledged copyeditor. Then what is the work speed that a beginning copyeditor should aim for? Is there a standard speed that the copyediting profession demands or expects of a beginning copyeditor?

Sunday, January 28, 2007

Copyeditor's task

Reading through the copyeditor’s role and copyediting tasks covered at the end of Chapter 4, I realize it is difficult to clearly define a copyeditor’s task. Referring back to the giraffe article in the first chapter, I feel that a copyeditor could have produced either versions (standard online copyedit on page 4 and substantive edit on page 5). On page 54, the book mentions that “your editing manager, supervisor, or client, should examine each project and tell you the level of effort required and time allowed.” Unfamiliar with the field, I was wondering which factors usually determine the extent of a copyeditor’s task. Does it depend solely on the editor’s (or journal’s) requirement, or is there a generalization?

...that that...

Whenever I do a grammar check in word processing programs, I am told that sentences containing two thats in a row are incorrect. For instance, "I thought that that was a grammatically correct sentence." It is wrong to use "that that" or is the computer wrong? Is this considered to be a missing antecedent?

Straight or Curled?

What is the difference between a looped cancel mark (as the answer key shows in Ch. 4) and a strike-through line (as we were told to use in class)? Is there a major difference between the two or is a regular line just easier to make than a looped line?

Close-up hooks

In Exercise 6 (p 43-44), "a simple deleted symbol suffices at the beginning of a word" when the copyeditor deleted the "s" at the beginning of "as." To clarify, is it unnecessary to use close-up hooks at the beginning of words and sentences, and at the end of words and sentences?

Also, in Exercise 6 (p 49), after consistent style, the copyeditor used two close-up hooks (one above, and one below), would it have been more appropriate to use just one close-up hook on top to "decrease space"?


I'm the editor for "Seeds + Esssse." It's a public school-based poetry journal for students from K-12 (and perhaps even college.)

My problem: how should I edit pidgin? I have my own ideas of how to spell in pidgin--should I leave the words the way the poet wrote them, or should I create a kind of pidgin dictionary, specifically for the journal?

Tuesday, January 23, 2007


My question is kind of niggling, actually. I believe I may have missed it in class: For an em-dash, is it always necessary to indicate with the appropriate mark (1/M, my best approximation)? Or does it only apply when the word processing program fails to convert the -- into a long dash? Or have I reversed this dilemma? It actually would seem easier to me if the author or editor left the m-dash as a --.

(from Ryan)

Monday, January 22, 2007

Communication Style

In class Prof. Matsueda advised that we think of the copy editor as participating in a dialogue with the author. I'm interested in the details of that relationship.

For example, do you change the tone of your queries based on your personal experience with the author? Do you ever try to guess or research the author's disposition so that you can communicate with her more effectively? How often does the dialogue between writer and copy editor end on the page, and how often do copy editors and authors meet, either in person or via email/teleconference? I imagine the effort of relationship management varies between publications, as well as between freelancers and non-freelancers. If you freelance there aren't other people in the organization to aid in managing the author-copy editor relationship. Ideally though, would your final copy edit be identical for the same piece of writing, even if it were written by two different people?

The textbook definitions

I know that I should both understand and be able to explain how and why a sentence has correct or incorrect grammar. However, it's really always been a problem (as I think it has been for a number of people who have gone through the public school system - not to make excuses) for me to be able to label a "compound sentence" or any other grammatical sentence part for what it is and be able to explain the rights and wrongs. I've taken a Modern English Grammar and Technical Writing here at UHM and I still can't really pick out most of the technical things by name, but I've always been able to tell when something just sounds "off." I just wanted to ask how important it is for a copyeditor to be able to pick out things that aren't grammatical by name? I am planning on learning to be able to pick them out, but if it's a long process, will this hinder my progress if I can't tell an author exactly why I choose to change something grammatically?

Page Numbers

Ch. 4, page 60, in regard to formatting tasks: If page numbers need to be added to the manuscript, where should they be written on the page? Also, do they need to be circled so they are not keyed in, or are they actually written for the purpose of being keyed in?

(from Rebecca)

The Author's Voice

Here's my question. I suppose it's not too technical, but I have been wondering exactly how bendable some of these rules of grammar are. I know that recently (as in the few decades) grammatical aspects such as the comma have had more open "rules" about placement, but I am more curious about dangling modifiers and the like; the words. Where do you draw the line between style or voice and what is just clearly wrong? How much can one argue that, even though a phrase is incorrect technically, it should be allowed into a publication because it's part of the author's voice. I would think it all depends strictly on the context, but is that always true? (or true at all?) Would it be okay to leave an unclear phrase in a piece if the mistake has so ingrained itself into the common language that it would make more sense to the reader left as it is?

(from Claire)

Errors Where There May Be None

This isn't really a technical question, but it's one that has definitely come up for me (especially when we looked at the review of Beyond Words). When copyediting, how do you avoid a certain sense of "paranoia?" I sometimes find that when I am looking for errors, I look too hard and find error where there perhaps is none. Is it just a matter of becoming more comfortable with copyediting? Is there a way to relax about it a little? Or is it better to be, sort of, overly cautious? Maybe this feeling will pass. But, I was just wondering. Thanks.

(from Jenny)

Engrish Anyone?

Takashi told me about Engrish, a website that posts examples of "Engrish" from Japan and elsewhere. Warning: Some of the mistakes, though funny, border on the vulgar because of the translation errors.

Here are some favorites:

Directions / Airport / Bears / Holiday greeting / No smoking / At the movies

Sunday, January 21, 2007

italics vs. quotation marks

The answer to question number 5 in Exercise 5 says we should italicize the words this and that in the sentence. I placed quotation marks instead. In class we had discussed that quotation marks are fine but I was wondering if there is a preference? Is one form more appropriate than the other? When do you italicize and when do you place quotation marks (excluding cases where there are quotes or implied writer's opinion)?



My dad, who studied English as a second language, often torments me with questions about the English grammar. One issue that comes up again and again is the use of articles. Now, my dad’s English is pretty good, and he has studied grammar in school and on his own. So he knows that an indefinite article ‘a/an’ is used when the noun in question is “not specific” and a definite article ‘the’ is used when the noun is “specific.” But such a generalization proves almost useless for a second language learner when actually composing a sentence.

Is there a practical, workable way to know exactly when to use ‘a/an,’ ‘the’ or no article? Or should I just tell my dad to flip a coin?


Amazing and show titles

Hi, this is Moon Yun. I'm going under "Lotusflower" because I had to create a whole new account because for some reason I couldn't get back in with old account. As an entertainment reporter, I'm starting to do red carpet events and I like watching the awards show like the Golden Globe and the Oscars. I feel the actors are getting real lazy with their grammer, especially with the word "amazing." They've all started to use "amazing" as in "I'm doing amazing" or "We're doing amazingly." That just rings so false. Isn't it more appropriate to use amazing in the context of...Working with Steven Spielberg on the set of "War of the Worlds" was an amazing experience?

I tend to get confused sometimes with quotation marks around the title of a TV show or movie. I wrote something about "Lost's" Evangeline Lilly with the apostrophe and "s" inside the quotation marks even though it's not part of the title. Is it ever O.K. to italicize a TV or movie title when, say, writing a news release? My friend and I were having a discussion about that. He felt it was acceptable practice and made the news release look attractive but I felt the reporter would just think we were making stylistic error.

Thank you.

That vs which, and numbers!

When do you use 'that' and when do you use 'which'?

When do you spell out numbers? I was reading one of my science textbooks, and they're not very consistent. "Sixty-one of the 64 codons code for the twenty common amino acids."

Lily posted a comment to my previous question:

What about words such as "unfortunately," "absolutely," "surprisingly," etc...? Is it all right to use an adverb at the beginning of the sentence as long as there is a verb it may be modifying later on in the sentence? Do adverbs have to be next to what it modifies?
Unfortunately, he gambled all his money away.
(Correct? to gamble unfortunately?)
Unfortunately, he did not win any money. (Incorrect? Nothing to modify?)

Copyediting for the web

How would one copyedit text on the web? Hardcopy is being replaced by online text -- how would copyediting symbols be used (or converted) when there is only this version of copy available?

Saturday, January 20, 2007

But I was told to never do that!

"Never start a sentence with 'but'!" Is this true? I've seen many instances in writings where sentences are started with the word "but." And what about "and," "a," and "an"?

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

i'm like, "what?"

Quick question: When punctuating dialogue, and the person has the tendency to said "like" a lot; do we need commas around "like"?
I'm asking because I know a court reporter who has to deal with this dilemma when she transcribes depositions verbatim.

I thought he was like going to stab me!
I thought he was, like, going to stab me!


What degree of occupational/moral responsibility should/do copy editors have for the finished work? On the occupational end: what if Idiscover a work is irredeemably beneath its publications standards? Do I edit as well as I can, but let it go? Or is it the my responsibility to blow the whistle?

The moral end interests me more,. If I copy edit something morally reprehensible, or at least irresponsible, am I morally responsible for it? How much of the finished work is it fair to attribute to the copy editor? I see three options:

1) None
2) Just implemented edits
3) As much as the author

The copy editor's name doesn't go on the finished product. Does that mean a copy-editor shares no responsibility for the finished work, so long as the prose follows all appropriate rules of grammar and reads clearly? Or do you feel its more beneficial as a worker, and more moral, to think of myself as responsible for what appears on the page beyond that, because clarity and grammar are inseperable from content? How high do you think the stakes are when it comes to making writing clearer than it once was?

Sorry for the abstract and navel-gazing question. thanks

Footnotes and Superscript.

I've always been curious when and where one should use Footnotes and Superscript. When does it become necessary to footnote, and what justifies the use of superscript? I've often read books or essays that contain superscript and I always enjoy how neat and tidy it can make a specific text look.

I've learned (the hard way) that superscript should not be substituted for citation. I'm hoping to learn a little more on this subject since we, as editors, need to know when to make such corrections or suggestions to an author.

-Davis Hoffman

Hopefully vs. I hope

In reference to question 8 on page 12 of the text, when do you use 'I hope' and when is it appropriate to use "hopefully"?

(from Ritchie Mae)

Copyediting Translations

I would like to ask you a question as a student of translation. My translation professor once introduced this phrase to me: "We use words to translate, but we don't translate words." This phrase always reminds me that my job as a translator is not simply converting words, but expressing the original writer's ideas in another language. Therefore, understanding what the original writer meant becomes the first obligation of any translator.

In that light, do you feel that a copy editor should be knowledgeable of the original language when dealing with a translated work? Should a copy editor be able to understand what the original writer meant and to check the accuracy of the translation? Or is that beyond his/her role as a copy editor?

(from Takashi)

Circled Text

When putting circled edit comments or directions in the margins, does it matter which margin? On p. 23 in the text (regarding moving text to a different page), it is specific about which margin to place the directions, but I don't see any other references (for example with italicize, underline, or other clarifications that are placed in the margins).

(from Rebecca)

Monday, January 15, 2007


I'm not sure how "good" of a question this is, but it was something that I keep thinking about from the exercises. Chapter 2 has the explanation about words like "unique" and "critical" being modified incorrectly. I was wondering if the explanation means that all verbs falling under the nature of being "something or not" (ie: it is unique or not/it is critical or not) can never be modified with words like most/more/extremely, like in the example? Or is it a case by case basis, depending on the word (so words like "unique" just can't be used with "most" or "more" but words like "critical" can)? Can't you say one person is more critical than another? Is there some kind of rule for this?

Grammar Trees

This is really dorky, but I love drawing grammar trees. I took 402 several semesters ago and really liked the class. The only problem is that the exercises seem a bit useless in evaluating a sentence. How could sentence trees help us edit a sentence? If it doesn't, then what was the point in learning them?

Guide to Grammar & Writing website

Does anyone know what style the Guide to Grammar & Writing website is using? I've used this site before and really like it, but want to know if the grammatical references are adhering to the Chicago Manual of Style.


I'm not sure if I'm posting this in the right place, but here it goes:

When looking at text, how much power does the editor have to change the order of the words? Or to add the the already existing words? Number seventeen in exercise two brought up these questions for me. Are words added simply to make the sentence more clear? In editing, how does one know the best way to offer more clarity?

(Original: Shakespeare's sonnets are about people who agonize over it.

Lovers was struck out for "people." And "over it," for "about being in love.")


I'm wondering when are end-of-line hyphens ambiguous?

(D)em hyphens are confusing--specifically, the soft hyphen. In our textbook is reads, "If a hyphen appears only because a line is too short for the whole word, you must mark this 'soft' hyphen for deletion" (24). I'm not sure what the book means by a line being "too short." I thought the rule was only use a soft hypen on a word if a sentence is too long to hold that word; thus, the word would be separated at a suitable syllable cut off. Do they mean too little space in the line? At any rate, if in the manscript there is a soft hyphen, doesn't the type-setter know it's a hypenated word?

In the other source given to use in class it states, "Hyphens appearing when dashes should be used-except double hyphens representing an em dash--should always be marked; otherwise a hyphen may be used between continuing numbers like 15-18 or may confusingly be used to set off parenthetical matter. Whenever it is ambigious or likely to confuse the typesetter an end-of-line hyphen should be underlined or crossed out so that the type-setter will know whether to retain the hyphen in the line or close up the word" (How an Editor Marks a Manuscript). Do you underline to retain the hyphen? I understand all of this is to help the type-setter, but I'm wondering if there is a difference between the font or size of the text on the paper the type-setter is reading and the way it is created in a computer document so that the hyphen would not be needed as the word is inputed? Is that why the soft hyphen should be deleted?

I know it is a small matter, but could someone clear it up for me?

Thank you!

Friday, January 12, 2007


Aloha and welcome to Hawai‘i's first blog for copyeditors. You are invited to contribute information for this blog: links to sites (e.g., Guide to Grammar & Writing), questions, comments, sightings of editorial errors (e.g., typographical or grammatical errors in newspaper or magazine articles), et cetera. With your kokua (help), this will become a rich source of information for practitioners and students of copyediting.