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?


Pat said...

I have been thinking about the letter and poem. Overall, the poem is better written than the letter, and I wonder now if the poem was written by one person and the letter by another; or perhaps the poem is a string of clich├ęs with an occasional original line. Also, the letter structures English in a way that is quite alien, and I wonder if it was written by a non-native English speaker consulting a dictionary.

If I were to use a dictionary and my limited knowledge of Japanese to compose a letter to a Japanese speaker, I would probably come up with something equally odd.

As I said in class, the exercise is an exaggerated version of what you will be given as a copyeditor. However, I gave it to you so that you would grapple with the most fundamental editing questions:

1. What is the author saying?
2. How is he or she saying it?
3. What mechanical errors—grammar, punctuation, spelling, etc.—can be corrected without disturbance to the author's style?
4. What stylistic errors are there?
5. How can the errors in style be brought to the author's attention without injury to the copyeditor-author relationship?

It is unlikely that anything like the poem and letter will ever be given to you as a copyeditor. However, there will be times when you struggle with these fundamental questions almost as much as you did on Friday. I will try to remember to bring in the original of a wonderful Tibetan story that we published some years ago; when you compare the original with the printed version, you'll get an idea of all the problems that had to be solved to make the work publishable.

Ritchie Mae said...

So, what is "style"?

Pat said...

Your textbook has a good definition; it's in the glossary, which appears at the end of the book.