One of History Press’ copy editors reviewed this manuscript and pronounced it fit. Well, mostly fit.
The book is “very well written,” he said, but it contains errors of “grammar, style, spelling and consistency.” He made about 40 blue-type changes in the document. Most were violations of the publisher’s house style.
That means, in my case, that Shedrick Thompson served in the “army,” not the “Army,” that Warrenton was a “colonial-era” town, not a “Colonial-era” one, and that Harry F. Byrd’s title was “former governor,” not “former Gov.”
I also learned that you don’t abbreviate South Carolina, that my former employer is “the Free Lance-Star,” despite what it says on the newspaper’s flag, and that Thompson was not “6 feet, 190 and labor-strong.” He was “six feet, 190 pounds and labor-strong.”
History Press generally follows the Chicago Manual of Style, but like all publishers it ignores the style book when it chooses. For example, the Chicago Manual recommends the use of the serial comma, the one that precedes the final item in a series. I dutifully placed these commas throughout, but that was for naught. History Press doesn’t like serial commas and removed them.
I confess to being a little defensive about these changes. I try to be a careful writer, as in full of care. I look things up, rewrite and submit what I believe is error-free copy. I am similar to the airline executive who insists on clean flip-down trays so passengers will trust the engines. I want clean copy so readers will trust my conclusions.
Even so, I believe in copy editors. They have made my writing better. Heck, I’m engaged to a professional copy editor. Laura Moyer read several versions of this book and offered countless valuable suggestions. When she finished, it had the feel of a fine oak dresser, worn by the touch of much good use.
2 responses to “I stand in praise of copy editors”
Jim, this made me smile. As someone who sees the forest for the trees (you remember, don’t you?), I appreciate copy editors, too. I love your writing….
Knowing your copy editor’s expertise, I agree that any style changes are simply changes to their style–not flaws in your story. I’d prefer to like their evaluation of your writing: ” “very well written.”