Geras on copyediting (revised and lawyered)

by Daniel on October 27, 2003

Crikey, if you guys regularly had to get something through a legal department, you would never again complain about mere copyediting … I’ve made a few illustrative comments which need to be taken into account before we resubmit this piece to Norman for a redraft ….

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.

[Can we prove this? Could we provide at least three examples of each (ie, three of not holding people in contempt because of their profession, three of not holding in contempt because of job, and three of not holding in contempt because of calling). Otherwise change this to “I do not always hold people in contempt ….”]

But copy editors editing!

[This sentence may be unclear to non-native English speakers]

That is something [Make consistent with either ‘editors’ or ‘editing’ in previous two sentences] different.

[Different from what? Can we prove this? Could we find someone else saying that it was different and just quote them?]

Not as bad, I will grant, as war criminals or child molesters

[Need specific examples here rather than making a value judgement. Perhaps we could provide a table of the numbers of people tortured and children molested by each of the three categories? At the very least, we need to say why we think copyeditors are not as bad as war criminals or (I really would prefer “and/or”) child molestors]

, they nevertheless belong in one of the very lowest categories of human intelligence^, and indeed morality.

[Specifically which category? How many categories are we using, and where do copyeditors, war criminals and child molestors come respectively? This sentence can’t be printed unless we provide a sidebar giving our scales of categories of human intelligence and morality. Ideally, we should also combine the two into a weighted average intelligence/morality scale. We should also give examples of where saints, charity workers and tenured professors come in order to demonstrate how much differentiation there is in our scale.]

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.

[This doesn’t appear to be consistent withour view above, and could be taken out of context. Need to rephrase the sentence to make sure our view is clear].

However, it there is no excuse for what copy editors they [referent is clear] also do

[Avoid unequivocal statements of this kind – of course there must be some excuses. Suggest “there is no excuse meeting what a reasonable man would consider to be a reasonable standard of exculpatory value”]

– 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

[As above, there are preumably lots of reasons – you give one below – once more, suggest “no reason meeting what a reasonable persion would consider to be a reasonable standard of rationality”. BTW, the piece is too long as it stands and needs to lose 50 words]

, other than some quirk in the ^mind of the particular copy-editor ing mind which is at work….

[“Quirk” is an ambiguous term. Do we mean an idiosyncracy or do we intend to imply incompetence or something worse? If the former, we need to make it clear. If the latter, we will need to support this claim]

I have charged £541.63 to the Normblog profit centre for this advice, as per usual overhead conventions.



raj 10.27.03 at 11:55 am

Um, it should be

>Generally (or “In general”), I am not contemptuous of someone because of his (or her) profession, job or calling.

Short, and to the point.


Mrs Tilton 10.27.03 at 1:04 pm

All true enough as far as it goes, Daniel; but I think it’s rather rare to deliver a 10b-5 opinion on a blog post. (I will refrain from suggesting that bloggers don’t do their diligence.)


Ben Hyde 10.27.03 at 1:59 pm

Please provide summary of action items with when bys.


Charlie Stross 10.27.03 at 3:55 pm

Small scream.

— Charlie (who is expecting the copy edits on his latest book to show up next week …)


OB 10.27.03 at 7:40 pm

That’s hilarious!

says an editor who has just finished (half of) an arduous job of editing – arduous in this case because the work is so good; I had to prune purely for reasons of space, and it was agony.


Tom T. 10.29.03 at 1:02 am

Those of us on the legal side are equivalently horrified/amused at the instances where something disastrous somehow escapes legal review and gets published.


Allan Ken 11.25.03 at 3:24 am

I once submitted a text for review and can you imagine it was edited more than 100 times?? But having to go through the trouble, things at least went fairly well in the legal department.

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