Posts Tagged ‘copy editing’

Stack of BooksI was about halfway through Donna Tartt’s Pulitzer Prize-winning novel, The Goldfinch, when I stumbled while reading the following:

Whenever he was gluing up a piece of furniture it was my job to set out all the right cramps, each at the right opening, while he lay out the pieces in precise mortise-to-tenon order—painstaking preparation for the actual gluing-and-cramping when we had to work frantically in the few minutes open to us before the glue set, Hobie’s hands sure as a surgeon’s, snatching up the right piece when I fumbled, my job mostly to hold the pieces together when he got the cramps on (not just the usual G-cramps and F-cramps but also an eccentric array of items he kept to hand for the purpose…

The reason I tripped over these lines is due entirely to the use of the word cramp. It popped me out of the story, puzzled me, and continued to nettle me through the ensuing days, enough so that it engendered this blog post.

The stages of my reaction were as follows: (more…)

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Le crayon rougeA large part of my “journey” from IT professional to editor is bolstering my own confidence level. While I’ve edited, copy edited, and proofread over a dozen novel-length books and scores of shorter works — both for myself and for others — I haven’t done this work as an editing professional. That, when put alongside the generally unstructured education I received in grammar (Hey, it was the ’60s; we didn’t burden ourselves with rules), means that while I have an innate command of the English language, I sometimes struggle to put into words exactly why an error is, in fact, an error.

The curse of being an autodidact is that I can miss things in my self-learning curricula, and that means I often fret about the completeness of my skill sets. The old 80/20 adage states that most of the time (80%), you only use a small portion (20%) of the skill set; conversely, the lion’s share of the skill set is seldom needed. In teaching myself a new skill, it’s relatively easy to learn that first twenty percent, but it is deuced hard to uncover the secrets of the infrequently used remainder.

As you can imagine, these gaps erode my confidence. Big time.

To counter this, I’ve been studying like mad. I quizzed my editor friends about classes and coursework, and received some guidance on what is of value and what might not be. Some suggestions were easier to implement than others.


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Le crayon rougeIt’s been a week of riding the rails, but not trains. . . roller coasters.

I’ve been studying for my new, hoped-for profession, and have been jack-rabbiting between euphoric leaps of über-confidence and bone-crushing impacts of complete despair. The fact is, even though I know how to edit and proofread, I still have much to learn–it’s why I’m shooting for a junior position and not expecting to swan into a job as an editor.

The massive amount of information I’ve been ingesting–reading, studying, taking tests to improve my skills and technique–has set my brain on fire. Sleep comes only with assistance, and lasts only until about 4 A.M., when my brain wakes up again, my inner vision spattered with blood-red proofreader marks and my heart hammering in panic. I try to clear my eyes, blinking away excerpts from the Chicago Manual of Style and swatting at ill-formed sentences hanging in the air above my head.

Worse, it’s affected my waking life.

No longer can I walk down the street, take the bus, or read the paper in peace. Now, every written word is a challenge, a test, and here’s the worst part:

There are mistakes everywhere.

I can’t not see them, now. Grammatical errors, spelling errors, then vs. than, rogue apostrophes and quote marks. Every-frakking-where.

Monday, I watched a training video for work. Not having audio, I turned on the closed-captioning. It took me half again as long to complete the damned thing because I spent so much time mentally correcting the errors in the text as it scrolled past.

I presume that professionals either become inured to the effects of these mistakes, or learn how to switch it off. For me, though, right now, it’s a constant barrage of misshapen sentences, Caliban-content cavorting around me, just beyond the reach of my red pencil, taunting me, testing me.

Some days, some hours, I know I can do this job and love it, too, but when that roller-coaster tips over the edge and I see just how deep the chasm is, it’s petrifying.



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SeahawkThis week, just as local fledglings are leaving their nests, trusting their futures to untried wings and thin air, so are copies of my résumé taking to the digital skies. Ten went out yesterday and today, panic has set in.

Am I ready? (more…)

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