Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Reflections on Test 2

I have been trying to answer everyone's question without contradicting myself or our textbook; but rereading some of my responses to the posts, I realize that I need to state what I've been thinking but keeping to myself.

What Dzanc originally sent my office was a Word attachment to an e-mail message. The Word document is a hybrid of a proper business letter and an informal e-mail message (e-mail has, as you've no doubt heard, affected the levels of formality we now communicate at). When I copyedited the version I prepared for test 1, I tried to keep the author's informal style while correcting grammatical, spelling, punctuation, and formatting errors; that is, it was not my intention to turn it into a proper business letter.

What I asked you to do in test 2 is slightly different; that is one reason I asked you to use my editing of test 1 as a guide.

Also, I believe I mentioned in class that there is an organization, the Council of Literary Magazines and Presses, that is already doing what Dzanc proposes to do. Dzanc's letter indicates no awareness of this organization, and this is another tip-off that Steve and Dan are inexperienced. I decided not to bring this up when we talked about the test because I didn't want it to be a factor in how you edited the text.

Hope that clears up a few things; let's talk more about these matters when we meet on Friday.

Tuesday, February 27, 2007


I need to request a moratorium on asking questions about dashes, em-dashes in particular. I hope this is all right with everyone.

More about em-dashes

(from Moon-Yun)

As I went over the second exam, I realized I didn't know what a "1 m" or "2 m" meant nor what it stood for and when we use them. Why can't we just use hyphens? Isn't it easier? I lifted these text from last night's Oscars. Are these "1 m" or "2 m" and how did they decide to use them and why?

After five best-director nominations — and five losses, including one for the masterpiece "Raging Bull" — Martin Scorsese got payback big time last night, taking the Oscar for best director and best picture for the mob saga "The Departed" at the Academy Awards.

Al Gore may not have won the presidency in 2000, but in 2007 he won an Oscar for best documentary — the global-warming cautionary statement "An Inconvenient Truth."

three hours on six pages

I am ashamed to admit, but I must have spent about three hours copyediting test #2. What frustrated me was it seemed that the author took no more than an hour to write the piece. In an actual work environment, wouldn't it be more economical to ask the author to take another hour to rewrite instead of having a copyeditor spend hours trying to fix the work?

Monday, February 26, 2007


I've been wondering about apostrophes for words that end with s or an s sound. I know chapter ten touches on this briefly, mentioning that one can add an extra s, but what's preferred these days? I usually just go with the apostrophe after the s (Congress'). Is one way more acceptable than the other? Is it up to the publication to decide its own style for apostrophes?

color pencils

I know we were supposed to make our final markings in red or blue pencil for test 2, but after trying numerous times, I ended up using my regular lead pencil. I am wondering if anyone else had this problem? For me personally, the color pencils did not provide the precision that I needed on such limited space for copyediting. Do I need to buy better color pencils? Is there a particular type or brand of color pencils recommended for copyediting?


I've been taught that you should avoid using the word "thing" (things, something) in academic or professional of writing. On the second midterm, the authors used the word "thing" a lot. I noticed that that wasn't copyedited in the first midterm. Am I wrong in thinking that I shouldn't use the word "thing"?

Books about grammar, etc.

Ben Yagoda just published a book, When You Catch an Adjective, Kill It a new conscript in the swelling ranks of books about grammar. I learned about the book from an episode of Fresh Air, a show broadcast on National Public Radio. (I've attached a link to the segment on the book. Unfortunately, you will have to listen, there isn't a transcript available. Its all here.) In addition to praising the book and its author, the episode advanced a thesis on the cause of the grammar book fad. The reviewer claimed that grammar books let us imagine that real order exists. We can bring sense to a chaotic world just by using commas properly. But do you think that's why people are buying grammar books? What about the sense of superiority that comes with being right? Or the thrill of trivia?

Following from that, what are the base pleasures of copy editing? And for Frank, what are the lower pleasures in your job? To help clarify, let me give an example. I used to write press releases for my high school. When I wrote I would sometimes sit and giggle giddily for long stretches as I marveled at my own cleverness. I certainly felt the "higher" aesthetic pleasures of writing, but there were aspect that I enjoyed simply as fun. Everyone who writes writes, in some way, for glory, or at least thats what I read somewhere. What about the people who support writers? What about anybody? I certainly enjoy the copy editing I've done in part because it makes me feel clever. I'll see if that persists after the test.

Freelance Copyediting

In class on Friday, someone asked what it took to be a freelance copyeditor. Frank gave us a response on what is needed, and other little bits of information, but I'm curious on what the average workload is for a freelance copyeditor. Frank painted a very nice, if probably over-exaggurated, of a freelance copyeditor working on manuscripts in front of a fireplace while in pajamas. As aesthetically pleasing as that sounds, what do employers look for when it comes to being a freelance copyeditor? Do they start you out with ten manuscripts and see how fast and accurate you work, or do you work on a script-by-script basis?

style vs. clarity

I know that we will talk about the test in depth on Friday, but I wanted to know already if I shot myself in the foot with my version. I know that copyeditors aren't supposed to rewrite things, but I felt as if I did that. Quite a bit. At some points, it bordered substantially. However, it was for the sake of clarity and purpose! Which was I supposed to take into consideration more? The purpose of the email (to present a business front in order to recruit literary journals into projects) or the author's style ("not great")? Is it okay because it was a business-type letter since those should be more cookie cutter? I would never take liberties like that with a piece of fiction or poetry.


I once read somewhere that eliminating all forms of the verb "to be" can enhance one's writing. This style of writing is called "E-Prime." I tried it for a while, and I guess it did make my writing more assertive by eliminating all passive forms and forcing me to come up with stronger verbs.

Do some copyeditors employ "E-Prime" when writing or editing?


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Sunday, February 25, 2007

List formats

So I have another question about list formats. While doing the test, it had occurred to me that the list in the email was set off from the body text whereas test one flushed them left. I retained the authors' page setup. I also resorted to Pat's boldface and period scheme. The boldface I can understand (I use it in my assignment design and have been advised to use it by several professors, including Jim Henry, a technical writing guru). But why periodize the list instead of the double hyphen? Is there a rule in some ur-style text like the Chicago Manual? Is it an in-house rule? Is it up to the editor's discretion? Are the periods clearer than the double hyphen? I think they are, but the authors clearly didn't think so (of course, I don't know how much credence I would give them at this point).
I should have asked this last week, before I handed in the exam, because it has been bothering me.

Risky Business

Sometimes when I interview people, they are fond of cursing. They do so out of passion for the subject of which they are speaking or out of habit. My journalism professors have told us to just take out the four letter words unless we feel the word is ABSOLUTELY necessary to add life to a story. On the other hand, my English professors (esp. my creative writing professor) was fine, even encouraged, the use of curses. In short, what is the general rule about using obscenities? Are there set ways to spell certain words, i.e. f*#!ing v. f*#!in' v. some other way, or is it at the discretion of the writer and editor?

Come on, Comma!

I am working on a critical essay where I quote from outside sources. I have taken to using the serial comma in my writing, but some passages I am quoting from did not use the serial comma. Should I leave the punctuation as it is since I am quoting it, or should I change it so that it is consistent with the rest of my essay?


K, so as I was doing the test, I noticed there were several parts where I had no space to insert a period, new text, and delete text without overcrowding the area. How do copy editors keep the page so neat? I had a very hard time. I'm also not a fastidious person so I tend to want to play with the way I make my marks.

A question about close-up marks (is there a hyphen; I'm to lazy to look it up right now), when deleting large portions of text and there is a period at the end, should I make ridiculously long close-up hooks or simply rewrite the period?


Friday, February 23, 2007


This web page has a good discussion of dashes: Guide to Grammar & Writing.

…and more blogs

I just took a quick look at the profiles of team members and saw that a few people have their own blogs. You might want to check out Lily's and Sara Y's in particular.

After the semester is over, I'll try to arrange a dinner or luncheon so that past and present members of my classes can meet each other. Perhaps I can persuade someone well known in local publishing—e.g., John Heckathorn—to be a guest speaker.

Stay tuned to this blog :)

Thursday, February 22, 2007


So I know we are supposed to edit instead of delete text, but a large portion of the text is redundant, misplaced, and illogical. I know it's late to be posting about this, but I think I'm going to have to claim clarity as my aim here. As well as keeping the author's colloquial, albeit cheesy style.

What do you think Pat? Am I going against what you want us to do, which is practice as much as possible our editing marks?

I feel torn, but I'm gonna go with my gut and with what I would do in a non-test situation.

More questions

The following questions are Ritchie's; a response from me follows each one.

(Q1) Do we hand in the test with our copyediting marks, the final revision with no copyediting marks, or both?

The first: you are being graded on the way you make and use your copyediting marks.

(Q2) The greeting says, "Hello again editors of literary journals." Are we to assume that this letter is a sent mass e-mail? Are we to treat greetings and salutations like headers, where we capitalize certain words?

Please see the back of the version of test 1 with my editing marks; it has, as I pointed out in class, a follow-up e-mail message from Dzanc Books. You will see by reading it who the intended audience for the text of test 2 is.

Actually, the salutation says, "Hello again, Editors of Literary Journals." I suggested to Davis and Moon Yun that they look online for guidelines for the composition of business letters. One of my main reasons for doing this was to get them to focus on the salutation, which is not in the correct form.

(Q3) Are contractions appropriate in business (or any formal) letters? For example, in the second paragraph, " we'll go about getting all of the above plans into motion...."

It depends on what is being asked and whom it is being asked of. A personal letter to you from the White House—or, say, a printed invitation to a formal wedding—would probably not have any contractions. In this case, I would say it's all right to use them.

(Q4) I did not understand what the author meant by "want[ing] to pick the brains of the people who have been out on the front lines." When you do not understand an author's meaning, do you still copyedit the sentence, or do you query the author about it's meaning? (I just deleted that part of the sentence because it sounded informal. Plus, if my assumptions are correct, then he is referring to the questions portion of the e-mail.)

First of all, please remember that possessive pronouns like its do not have apostrophes.

Secondly, yes, he is referring to the questions he wants people to answer. I would suggest you do your best to copyedit the passage and then add a query to the author.

(Q5) In "1. Library Subscriptions," the author writes, "group deal offerings to libraries." I am not sure what that means, would it be alright to say "by offering group deals to libraries." I found it difficult to revise this business letter because it required a bit of knowledge on literary journals, marketing, and subscriptions. I know the author is trying to promote his foundation by showing all the ways he can help literary journals, but I wish I still can't figure out what he's trying to say in some parts.

First of all, please note that alright should be all right.

Secondly, your revision sounds fine to me.

I think that the letter, as filled with personality and goodwill as it is, did not get the response the folks at Dzanc were hoping for because it is, as I said in class, (1) too informal for its intended audience and (2) unclear and imprecise in several places.

You will often be asked to copyedit material that you have no training in or formal knowledge of. That is one of copyediting's greatest challenges: to use your knowledge in a formal and logical way to serve the work and its readers. I was once a copyeditor for a research center at the UH, and I was able, after trying to overcome such fears as yours, to copyedit research reports, journal articles, and conference papers produced by scientists in water research. I don't doubt that you can do the same :)

(Q6) In "2. Event Planning," I copyedited the sentence to, "More and more book festivals are popping up every year; often, we know the organizers." Is the O of often supposed to be capitalized? Also, I wasn't sure what KIND of successes they've seen with these events, so I deleted that sentence.

Ack, no! Please don't ever capitalize the first word after a semicolon.

It's OK to delete the sentence, but I need to ask if my copyediting of that passage did not help you.

(Q7) 3. Readings. What are reading series? Is that just another term for reading nights? What variations is he talking about? Does he mean variations of those reading nights? Also, would you consider, "2 to 4 of their authors" and "three or four journals" as estimates? (I remember you said that you should spell out numbers if they are estimates or not critical to the meaning of the passage. Or would consistency rule, such that I should just spell out all the numbers?)

Reading series are series of readings. For example, the English department has a series of readings that are held at lunchtime and feature the work of poets in Hawai‘i. Because they are continuing and periodic, the readings constitute a series. Reading series can have different formats: one important writer reading his latest work; several writers published by one journal or press reading the work just published; two winners of a recent competition reading their award-winning work; and so forth.

And yes, please spell out the numbers in this case.

(Q8) 5. Advertising. Dzanc Books want to drive for lower rates, and help with layouts. Does that mean they want to market group rates, and help with advertisement layouts?

Yes; again, the hastily composed text will drive many people away—instead of toward—Dzanc.

(Q9) 7. Litblogs. For the first time, the author mentions Dan. Who is Dan? Do I ask the author who Dan (and Steve) is? Or do I just write, "Dan, the founder of Dzanc Books," AND query the author?

The latter is preferable, I think.

(Q10) 8. Anthology. Do they mean that they will be accepting nominations, from participating journals, for works to be put into the anthology?

Yes, from journals who work with them. Note the use of the restrictive clause: it is deliberate, i.e., meant to make it clear to everyone that only a certain group of editors and publishers will appear in the anthologies.

(Q11) Question # 16. Are they asking the renewal rate for their subscribers?

Yes, Dzanc wants to know how many subscribers, of the total number, renew their subscriptions.

is the list format a style choice?

Last minute question: I was wondering about the list of the things Dzanc is planning on doing. Do we move it to align with the rest of the text (on the first page of the letter) and over to the left on the following page or is it okay to leave it indented? And, if we do need to move it, do we use the marks for align or for flush left? Does it even matter or is it the copyeditor's choice of style? Personally, I like to think that it looks okay as it is, but that's probably just me being lazy and not wanting to make a decision about how to put in the editing marks. I just don't know if it needs to be moved or not, since Pat moved it, but we've already discussed how we don't need to copy all of her editing marks.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Final Markings

I think someone asked this in class, but does the final version of our test need to be marked with a red pencil or a pen? I'm trying to use a red pencil, but I'm finding it hard to erase and make corrections when I make mistakes.

Megan and Claire

Ladies, I don't have the textbook or my copies of Chicago Manual here at home, so I'm handicapped in more ways than one. I will answer your questions when I am able to, OK?

Claire, I did answer your second question, so you'll see a comment on your post.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Parentheses vs. em-dashes and commas

The text describes the use of parentheses for including additional information or enclosing asides (p. 149). On p. 151 em-dashes within a sentence are shown to describe “an abrupt change of thought.” The second em-dash example: “Everyone in the class—students and teachers—appreciated the joke” suggests that commas could be used instead because the students and teachers phrase explained the previous statement. Isn’t this including additional information, so technically couldn’t parentheses also be used?

Is there a standard such as using em-dashes within dialogue sentences and using parentheses within text? Is the choice of using parentheses/em-dashes/commas dictated by the editor’s style guide or is one option more preferable? I guess I'm just a little unsure about how the choice of specific punctuation can change the meaning or emphasis of a sentence.

(Sorry if this was already discussed Friday!)

Monday, February 19, 2007

website or Web site

I have seen the word website written in many ways; website, web site, Web site. The last in the list is to me the most awkward way of writing it out, but the AP style book says that it is correct, is in fact the only way to write it properly, since the word web is an abbreviation for World Wide Web. Still, a lot of newspapers, like the New York Times, for example, do not write it this way. I understand this could just be the preference of the paper, but what do you think is best? What does Chicago say about web addresses? AP says the "http://" should always be included, but this looks so messy.
Also, how much fact-checking are copy editors expected to do? Names, dates, but what else? Where do you draw the line and query the author for more information?

em-dashes again

I had a problem with the em-dash on the first test and I still can't figure out how to make one on my computer. I have it correct once (but that might have been from the original text and had nothing to do with me), but the rest of mine didn't turn out. I Googled it and it says to use two hypens and that will make an em-dash, but mine won't change. Any suggestions?

Also, is that how I would use "Google" as a verb? :P

Hyperlinks and Acronyms

Microsoft Word always makes e-mail addresses and websites as hyperlinks. Is it only appropriate to have e-mail addresses and websites as a hyperlinks on more web-based texts? (Is the business letter for Midterm 2 meant to be sent on paper or through e-mail?)

Also, is it appropriate to use acronyms, such as MS, when the acronyms are commonly used in society? Or should we state what the acronym stands for?

Lazy writing

How much do you think the copy editors task is keeping the author honest?

When I reread my writing, I often find most of my time is spent revitalizing passages I slacked my way through on the first go. Lazy writing seems like a fairly subjective phenomenon. For example, John Gardener (author of Grendel and a number of books about writing) somewhere states that writing too many sentences starting with -ing verbs is lazy writing. He claims that overuse of -ing comes from a desire to vary sentence structure, but without effort. e.g. Walking down the street, Dave heard the jingle of a Mister Softee ice cream truck.

Some people may have no problem with an abundance of sentences that start with -ing verbs, but I agree that -ing verbs are a little lazy. Do you think the copy editor is, or should, be the person who makes the writer do the extra work that makes their writing good, even if its outside the scope of the copy editors task to correct the lazy writing? How do you break it to a writer that they are being lazy (I think one can tell if an author is being lazy)? What are some other examples of lazy writing? There are likely a few in this passage.

Dashes and things

Hi, when would you use just one dash?

Also, in Japanese class, my professor said something about adjectival (sp?) nouns. What the heck are those?

Test 2 Questions

I have a bunch of questions…

Do I need to write in the “bf” mark in the margin for boldface, or would a wavy line suffice? Also Pat used the “tr” mark for transposing (on the second page of the first test), but is the mark necessary?

Do I have a choice to include the serial comma or omit it? I think this decision depends on which style manual I use, but, since I have no particular style manual this time, can I choose to retain or omit the serial comma if I stay consistent?

If I choose to retain the serial comma, would I have to place the comma every time I use the word “and”? For instance, would I need a comma in a simple phrase like, “She is nice and smart”? Or should the sentence be, “She is nice, and smart”?

Is it assumed that the receivers of this e-mail message know who Dan and Steve are? It seems informal to mention such names unless the parties involved are aware of who they are.

What is the copyediting mark for making an e-mail address hyperlinked?

Should we specifically write “Au:…” when we query the author to distinguish the query from the instructions for the typesetter?

Is “litblog coop” an organization? Should the name be capitalized?

Pat mentioned in class that putting an exclamation mark after an understood statement, such as “library subscriptions have close to 100% renewal rate,” indicates a lack of professionalism. Should we advice the author to refrain from using the mark?

I’m afraid this question might repeat what Davis and Moon Yun had already asked, but are we penalized every time we make the same marking as Pat had done in the first test? Should we come up with our own markings even when we feel that Pat’s markings seem to be doing exactly what we want? Of course, I’m not saying that we should just copy everything…

to strike or not to strike?

You mentioned in class that we should not strike out too much of the original text, but savage passages with corrections. You also said that we can use your marks on test #1 to guide us along. I noticed that you did strike out sentences and paragraphs from the text on test #1. So, can I also strike out similar sentences and paragraphs as shown on test #1, or should I just focus on correcting the grammar and puntuations and leave the content alone?

More Comments

Lily has posted comments in response to David's post about freelance editing and Jenna's post about common usage. Please check out what she has to say.

Sunday, February 18, 2007

Correction similarity

My comment is similar to Moon Yun's in that I'm referring to our first test quite a bit. Mostly because when I make a correction to the test, I immediately realize that I'm making the same marks and corrections that the first test had. I know my subconscious is at work here, because when I come across a sentence, I know from the previous test what word might improve the over-all flow. More often than not it's the same word, or the same striking of multiple words.

Personally, I have a huge fear about accidental/unintentional plagiarism. I think that's why I have such a strong interest in copyediting in the first place. It's very hard to plagiarize sentence corrections, fixes to grammar, and spelling suggestions. However at this point in time I am panicking just a little because I realize it may be possible to plagiarize copyediting marks too!


(from Moon Yun)

I did the test today (1st run) and I'm boggled by the oversimplification of the test. I just used the last test as a guide (per your suggestion) and I basically followed your markings. That cannot be what we're assigned to do. Am I missing something?

Friday, February 16, 2007

"For" as a Coordinating Conjunction

What are the stylistic conventions of using "for" as a coordinating conjunction:

I left early, for I felt sick.

They hired him, for his application was superior to the other applicants.

I ask this because I used to employ this technique a lot when I was younger. I stopped for three reasons: it did not see like a commonly used; it seemed like a cheap transition; it stilted the prose in some cases. I am wondering what copy editors or editors think about this construction?


In Chapter 10, p. 141, the book shows examples of how/when to use an ellipsis. However, there are no spaces between the ellipsis and the surrounding words. I have been told in both my English and journalism classes that there should be a space before and after an ellipsis. Is this just a style difference (MLA and AP v. Chicago) or did the book make a mistake?

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Lily's Question about Idioms

I found that The Free Dictionary has a section on idioms. You can type into the search box the idiom you want to look up, and the meaning will appear on a new page.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007


(from Moon Yun)

As I mentioned in my previous question, I'm the editor for an online movie website called "Ain't It Cool News." I have a very good writer who writes with a lot of flair. The problem is she doesn't have formal education in journalism so she lacks the style and the standard format. I noticed that when she submits her articles. I don't want to ruin her natural flair but do you think I should come up with suggestions to make her a better, yet formal, writer?


In chapter eight, on page 112, it says: "Even in bulleted or displayed lists, the items should be in some kind of order. If they are simply random, consider alphabetizing them." Is this strictly applied at all times? If a written piece contains a short list of items and they are not in any particular order, will the copywriter actually change the items around and place them in some kind of order?

Monday, February 12, 2007

common usage

I was reading the "Opus" comic strip in this Sunday's paper and a character mentioned that "thaw" and "unthaw" mean the same thing. Are there a lot of words like this and if there is one that is more commonly used, but the author uses the other, do you bother to query about it (because th meaning is essentially right, regardless of what people can easily recognize) or is that just being too anal retentive, even for a copyeditor?

Test #1

Is it OK to ask a question about test #1? On the third page, in the ninth section on databases, why is the comma struck? I dwelled on that very spot a few times during the week before the test was due. I thought the "and" was being inserted with a caret. Perhaps someone can help me understand the symbol that was given and why the comma needed to be taken out. Thanks.

Freelance Copyediting

When do freelance copy editors come in on a project? Does the author hire a freelance editor to make her manuscript more appealing to publishers? How does a person get started as a freelance copy editor? Do journals ever hire freelancers to help them make tight deadlines?

I'm interested in the general rule here, not anything exhaustive. Although interesting or entertaining exceptions are welcome.

Parallelism, and Pages

Exercise 15, Problem 8, Page 122
Original: Children have to learn to ask nicely instead of going around making demands.
Answer: Children have to learn to ask nicely instead of demanding.

Is there a better way to copyedit that sentence? For example, the sentence could have read: Children have to learn to ask nicely instead of make demands."

Also, what is the difference between pg., pp. and p. when indicating page(s)?

A translator and a copyeditor

Chi mentioned in her last post that she feels uncomfortable about translating Korean poems into English because the original feeling or meaning is “lost in translation.” I often feel the same way when I translate something or read a translated work.

Although I study translation, I believe that no translated work can surpass the original, especially when the languages involved are not closely connected. I think there is a merit in reading Shakespeare in English or Lady Murasaki in Japanese. The best a translator can do is to imagine, “How would the author say this if he/she knew English/Japanese?”

A translator can spend hours coming up with a good translation for a very short phrase or even a word. Because of all the efforts, some translators can get personal when someone criticizes their work. I can just imagine the fury of a translator when a copyeditor who doesn’t know the source language criticizes and alters the translation. But such an emotional reaction indicates a lack of professionalism.

Does a copyeditor work with a different frame of mind when working with a translated piece? Does a copyeditor take into consideration the fact that the piece he/she is dealing with came from another language through a translator?

Copyediting world

Coming from the engineering and science world, this class has been refreshing. There is a common stereotype of engineers: they may be able to design gravity-defying structures, but to have them write a paper on what they are doing is somewhat of a challenge. I heard the phrase “we’re engineers, why should we have to go to some English class?” more than a few times in my undergraduate classes, which leads to interesting collaborations for group reports. Of course, many engineers write well, usually in a clear and straightforward manner. One thing that I thought was interesting is that I think there is really a common ground between copyeditors and engineers that I want to try out on you, so here goes.

I got really excited when several other people admitted enjoying such a taboo thing like grammar trees, because secretly, I like them too. I got to thinking, and I realized that the reason I like grammar trees comes from the same (obsessive?) mechanism in my brain that makes me want to find the optimal solution to a problem. Both copyediting and engineering are problem solving jobs, where paying close attention to detail is crucial. It seems funny that with as many hours as an engineer will spend in front of an Excel spreadsheet, how much he/she/e might not want to spend making sure their report is well written. I suppose it’s just the type of problems we like to tackle. I see a potential bridge here…

I found some additional incentives to be a copyeditor: “Top 10 Reasons Why Being a Copy Editor Is So Cool”


Just to make certain for the upcoming test:

An em-dash is simply an elongated hyphen with no spaces between it and the surrounding words? How exactly are they used?

Sunday, February 11, 2007

role of thump

Is there a reference book that could be referred for cliches or idioms. If the author has phrased a metaphor incorrectly, is there a way to look it up?
Saying: Toe the line.
Error: Tow the line.

Saturday, February 10, 2007

Another "that" question

This question represents the opposite of the "that that" topic. I am wondering about the disappearance of "that" in certain clauses.

For example:
He said I had to meet him later

As opposed to

He said that I had to meet him later.

(Better examples abound, but I think [that] you get the idea)

I was always under the impression [that] the second example was correct, or at least, more formal. My Latin professor always obliged us to use that in our translations, even though colloquial usage said otherwise.

Is this variability a question of style--standard versus formal--or is the second typology obsolete?


What if an author's intention is to mix styles such as pidgin with academic speak? How does one copyedit accurately, meaning how do we make sure the author's intentions still come across when the focus is a hybridity/differing power structures? The author's intentions may be to point out or defy conventional grammatical structure while still maintaining their mastery of it. Ah, maybe this is more of a "regular" editor question, huh.

I ask because I just read Sage Takehiro's column in the BIW, in which she systematically destroys (but is still nice) to a reader's response of her response to Maui Fever; yes, the show on MTV. Anyway, the article was da bomb, but I was thinking, ho, that would be one hard thing to copyedit!

Tuesday, February 6, 2007

Laughing at Errors

(from Moon Yun)

When I go to the small Korean restaurants or dim sum places, I get a chuckle from reading their menus sometimes. They almost get it but not quite right since English is not their first language. I wanted to offer my services and help them correct their menu but would that be impolite and patronizing? What do you think of "Headlines with Jay Leno" where he makes fun of such cases? Fear of being laughed that where people turn away from becoming writers?


(from Moon Yun)

This class will come in handy because I'm also the editor of an influential movie website called "Ain't It Cool" news. One of my writers, though a good reporter, is in need of a good editor. He makes so many mistakes, whether it's grammer, spelling, sentence construnction. You name it; he does it. He's hyper sensitive so I can't complain to his face. Or can I? Is there a diplomatic way of saying, "Hey, you need to look over your copy." Or should I stay silent and use the new skills to edit his text to the best of my abilities?

Not Coming Soon

I asked my friend Michael LaGory to respond to David's post; rather than embed his response in the comments, I decided to make it a new post.

Grammar haters had better not hold their breath waiting for the day when people stop using “whom” altogether. It is only slightly more imminent than the day people start using it correctly.

I am not impressed by the argument that “whom” does not make a distinction necessary for understanding. The same is true for much more basic rules, such as subject-verb agreement. Few grammatical errors significantly impede understanding, however much they may erode respect.

The “who”-“whom” error is probably most likely in questions (“Who do you love?” “Who can I turn to when nobody needs me?”) and least likely when the pronoun is the object of a preposition. Constructions like “one of whom” are still widely used. I almost never see “one of who.” The tendency to postpone prepositions increases the likelihood of error. Many people whose ears would twitch at “the woman with who I fell in love” would admit “the woman who I fell in love with” without a second thought, their Inner Grammatical Watchdog unstirred.

The Inner Grammatical Watchdog, although widely domesticated, is not extinct. Although the wolf has turned poodle even in many professional writers, in editors like my dear friend Pat, the dominant primordial beast remains alive and snarling. Set one careless foot in her domain, and she’ll be on your case.

Monday, February 5, 2007


I was wondering the same thing about copyediting poems as Chi. I'm interested to see the response to her question. Since I have to think of another question, I'll use this to bring up semicolons. Pat passed out the "Punctuation Pattern Sheet," about clauses. If a semicolon only goes between two independent clauses, why not just use a period? (Instead of, "John washed his car; he waxed it, too." Couldn't one also write, "John washed his car. He waxed it, too.")

Question on diction . . .

I've been thinking a lot about diction lately, especially after the last assignment. I found myself excising nearly everything. I am assuming that few manuscripts would need such a profound overhaul, but what if a manuscript has a lot of annoying passive constructions. Perhaps these constructions do not read awkwardly, but do stick out. Could a copyeditor justifiably fix them? I suppose a better question: would a copyeditor spend the time?


In exercise 13, do the queries to the author not need to be circled because it's just an exercise? I know we talked about how everything should be circled so as not to confuse a typesetter. Or is it okay because it's obviously not meant to be changed in the type and stands as a query to the author?

Copyediting poems

For some reason it was extremely difficult for me to copyedit the poem handed out in class. I am pretty sure the writer was not a native speaker of English. But even if he was, and even if the poem had made more sense, I think I still would have had a hard time copyediting the poem. I feel that each word and punctuation mark (or lack thereof) is very sensitive in a poem. I have been asked to translate Korean poems into English and I just can't seem to do it because the translation will never carry the exact feeling/meaning as the original poem. I guess that's the same way I feel about copyediting a poem. Although the poem handed out in class was an unusual case, I feel reluctant to alter any part of a poem because even an incorrect spelling might be intentional. But I guess we can always query the writer. I was wondering though, if we were working for a journal like Manoa, are there certain copyeditors who are assigned to copyediting certain genres or are all copyeditors expected to copyedit all the works to be published?

The Death of Whom

Is the word whom disappearing? It seems like people use who in all cases now. Although it's grammaticaly incorrect to use who in the objective case, eventually "whom" likely won't be with us. Does anyone think "whom" is dying? Will the objective case soon cease to exist for the word whom? Are copy editors the last line of defense against "whom's" demise? When do you think its time to let "whom" or other grammatical phenomenon die?

Team Editing

Does a copyeditor ever work with a partner or partners on a manuscript?

I once did a "team translation" (English to Japanese), where each team member was responsible for translating a certain portion of a lengthy manuscript. The difficulty was that the final translation had to read like a work of a single person, and my teammates and I had to make sure that we used the same translations for certain terminologies.

Is there such a thing as a "team copyediting"? If there is, what precautions would the involved copyeditors have to take?

Sunday, February 4, 2007


I know that semi-colons should not be used when two independent clauses are joined with a conjunction, but someone told me once that a semi-colon should be used if there are commas
present in each of the independent clauses.
Example: Therefore, I thought he said that his sister, Cindy, lives in Alaska; but it turned out that, in fact, she lives in Hawaii.

But then, someone else told me that a punctuation is not needed at all if two clauses joined by the conjunction already have commas within themselves.
Example: Therefore, I thought he said that his sister, Cindy, lives in Alaska but it turned out that, in fact, she lives in Hawaii.

Or should a comma be used?
Example: Therefore, I thought he said that his sister, Cindy, lives in Alaska, but it turned out that, in fact, she lives in Hawaii.

Is there such a thing as too many commas in a sentence?

Freedom of speech or just bad writing?

I was thinking about a few of the in-class exercises we have done where we were given songs and poems to copyedit. Yes, the poem we were given was hard to understand and had excessive errors. And I agree, "Lay lady lay" should be "Lie with me across my big brass bed." In fact, I've caught myself wanting to correct a Wings song ("But in this ever changing world in which we live in" -- redundant and ends in a preposition). But who am I to tell Bob Dylan or Paul McCartney his hit song is grammatically incorrect? In these instances, should the copyeditor correct the mistakes or leave the errors due to artistic freedom? Is there such a thing as too much freedom (where the work makes absolutely no sense but the artist pulls the freedom of expression card)?

Saturday, February 3, 2007

Grammar Girl

Someone told me about this great new podcast called the Grammar Girl's Quick & Dirty Tips for Better Writing. So I checked it out and I love it! Grammar Girl discusses the most commonly made grammar mistakes (or is it grammatical mistakes?) and then goes into correct usage, all in a few minutes. You can visit Grammar Girl's website at:, or visit the iTunes store and search for Grammar Girl under Podcasts.

Friday, February 2, 2007


When I was copyediting the letter and poem that we were given in class today, I found it difficult to "respect the author's style." I just wanted to cross everything out, and to re-write it. This has been addressed here and there in previous entries of the blog, but I wanted to know what it meant to respect a author's style. Does that mean we should copyedit a sentence to sound like the rest of the sentences? If so, then how would we have copyedited the letter and poem to "sound" as if the author had written it?


I was thinking about the exception of phrases like "a number of" and "a variety of" taking singular and plural verbs; and I felt the need to post a question regarding the use of "their."

"Their" is a plural pronoun; but why can't "their" be a singular pronoun, if used consistently in written languagel? I know there are a lot of problems in gender studies with identity; and the use of "their" is ambiguous, in a wonderful way; it allows for a dual or third gender.

Don't you think "their" can be used as single pronoun? Can't the English language make an exception? Really, it's not like we don't make a milliion already. :-)

I don't know. Just a thought.