Geras on Copyeditors (revised)

by Kieran Healy on October 26, 2003

Norman Geras writes:

bq. I do not generally [consider deleting, or move to beginning of sentence] hold people in contempt because of for their profession, their job^, or their calling. But copy editors editing! That is something [Make consistent with either ‘editors’ or ‘editing’ in previous two sentences] different. Not as bad, I will grant, as war criminals or child molesters, they nevertheless belong in one of the very lowest categories of human intelligence^, and indeed morality. You will [consider ‘may’] object that copy editors perform a most useful and necessary function, turning what is often ill-formed and error-strewn text into something more presentable. This, too, I will grant. However, it there is no excuse for what copy editors they [referent is clear] also do – which is to [run-on; consider breaking into two sentences] interfere with people’s painfully-crafted stuff [lazy choice of word] when there is no reason whatever for doing so, other than some quirk in the ^mind of the particular copy-editor ing mind which is at work….



Jorge 10.26.03 at 11:41 pm

I agree I mean jack kerouac never used editors in fact he just let the prose flow freeform and right off the tip of his pen punctuation be damned. Personally i think jack transferred all his punctuation to Allen Ginnesburg durring a peyotee ritual back in the fifties. Who needs all those comas.


Matt Weiner 10.27.03 at 3:03 am

Why did you let “will grant” pass the second time? You’ll have to shape up if you want more work from this publisher, Kieran.


Doug Muir 10.27.03 at 9:31 am

“Painfully crafted”, forsooth. Nice one, Kieran.

Doug M.


sidereal 10.27.03 at 6:35 pm



Stu Savory 10.28.03 at 7:25 am

How true.
How very true.
How very very true.

Having been on the receiving end of – often seemingly arbitrary – copy-editing of the manuscripts for my books, I can confirm that it is often a subjective process (although sometimes helpful) and causes disagreements in which the author (ego) invites the copy-editor to go pound sand up his ass. Conciliation has its limits!

Stu Savory


Netwoman 10.28.03 at 3:16 pm

Hilarious! (now can someone do this for my dissertation?)


Joanne Jacobs 10.29.03 at 9:38 am

The hyphen in “painfully crafted” is incorrect. I’d advise “carefully crafted” since there’s no particular merit in the pain suffered by the writer.

When I was a copy editor, my favorite saying was: “There is no joy on earth greater than changing someone else’s copy.”

As a writer, I make it a point of pride not to whine about copy editing.

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