The Subversive Copy Editor: Advice from Chicago (or, How to Negotiate Good Relationships with Your Writers, Your Colleagues, and Yourself)
Publication Date 1 Jan 2009
OverviewEach year readers submit over three thousand grammar and style questions to the Q&A page at "The Chicago Manual of Style Online". Some are arcane, some simply hilarious - and one editor, Carol Fisher Saller, reads every single one. All too often she notes a classic author-editor standoff over the 'rights' and 'wrongs' of prose styling: 'This author is giving me a fit'. 'I wish that I could just DEMAND the use of the serial comma'. 'My author wants his preface at the end of the book. This seems ridiculous. I mean, it's not a post-face'. In "The Subversive Copy Editor", Saller suggests new strategies for keeping the peace. Emphasizing carefulness, transparency, and flexibility, she shows copy editors how to build trust and cooperation. One chapter takes on the difficult author; another speaks to writers directly. Throughout, the focus is on serving the reader, even if it means breaking 'rules' along the way. Saller's own foibles and misadventures provide ample material: 'I mess up all the time', she confesses. 'It's how I know things'. Copy editors, Saller acknowledges, also make trouble for themselves (does any other book have an index entry that says 'terrorists. See copy editors'?). The book includes helpful sections on e-mail etiquette, work-flow management, and organizing computer files. Saller's emphasis on negotiation and flexibility will surprise many copy editors who have absorbed, along with the dos and don'ts of their stylebooks, an attitude that their way is the right way. In encouraging copy editors to banish their ignorance and disorganization, insecurities and compulsions, the Chicago Q&A presents itself as a kind of alter ego to the comparatively staid Manual of Style. In "The Subversive Copy Editor", Saller continues her mission with audacity and good humor.