Sunday, February 4, 2007

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)?


Pat said...

Well, remember that the copyeditor and author are engaged in a formal relationship. If no such relationship exists, you do not have to comment. Sometimes friends bring us their work to look at; they are hoping that we will be impressed with the work and will praise them. Because we are not in a professional or formal relationship with them, we need not comment if we feel that such comments won't be appreciated or have any beneficial effect. We can instead make the choice to protect the friendship by saying something like "I really don't feel I'm the right person to evaluate this. Maybe it would be better if you asked Mr. or Ms. X?"

In the case of the copyeditor-author relationship, the author has agreed to consider the copyediting in exchange for having his work published. If, in the course of copyediting his work, you question his style, diction, metaphors, etc., it is your right to do so. You are supporting and enforcing the publication standards of your employer.

If the author is offended and/or rejects your copyediting, it is possible that publication of his work will be reconsidered.

Pat said...

It is also possible, as I've said before, that the acquisitions editor will (1) decide that your editing won't be used or (2) enter into a dialogue with the author that will result in a better piece.