[lit-ideas] grades & kleenex/Editor Disease

  • From: Scribe1865@xxxxxxx
  • To: lit-ideas@xxxxxxxxxxxxx
  • Date: Fri, 7 May 2004 01:51:19 EDT

In a message dated 5/6/2004 11:55:25 PM Eastern Daylight Time, 
JulieReneB@xxxxxxx writes:
I have noticed, as an adult, that, as you say, editors do not follow this 
I always edit the way I was taught to edit. Periods inside quotation marks 
unless there is a problem of clarity. Single spaces between sentences. 
outside quotation marks if, and only if, the quotation has no question mark 
(is not the question). 
Yadda-yadda, see Chicago Manual of Style 14th 5.13 for differences between 
British and American style on this point. 

I've always enjoyed writing work more than editing work. Maybe I'm just an 
innately impatient person willing to put up with sloppiness as long as it moves 
the ball along. But after eight years working as an editor, it feels better to 
be earning a living exclusively by writing, even the most banal commercial 
writing I do.

Editing, as a profession, especially here in NYC, is where writers go to die. 
Certainly among all those dying writers are a few who take editing seriously 
and raise it to an art like Japanese Tea Ceremony and are reborn as great 
editors. But for the most part, editorial departments I've seen are populated 
compulsive fault-finders, nabobs of italics, Pharisees of the house style or of 
Chicago/AP/MLA/SBI/Turabian styles, knuckle-rappers ready to strike if you 
don't properly hyphenate vis-a-vis. (Most of them have unfinished novels 

People who spend eight hours (plus) a day looking for mistakes in text 
eventually get editor's syndrome. You find yourself proofreading menus, street 
signs, correcting spelling on news tickertapes, and patching botched paragraphs 
sentences in playbill advertising copy, matchbook ads, or canned food labels. 
You might examine the "YOU ARE HERE"  sign next to the elevator in your 
building and discover that you are not where the little arrow says you are, but 
somewhere else, right about ten feet, and you wonder how you will mark the 
plastic sign (and with what?) to transpose that "YOU ARE HERE" arrow about two 
inches right in the sign, and whether you should call it out by a bar in the 
margin and maybe "send arrow right 2 inches" in brackets just in case they 
understand your markings...

Meanwhile the elevator came and went and you realize that there is no "they," 
no executive editor to say "Gee we made an inexact sign. Hurry up, let's fix 
it."  Instead there are tired people who don't care about stylistic niceties, 
and they are not going to hold the elevator while you correct diagram 1 on 
this page of your obsession.

If you have ever copyedited in standard publisher's markup language or XML 
formats, you may get a rare variation on editor's disease, Code Editor's 
Disease, where you tend to correct public signs in standard markup or put an 
ingredients list in XML.

There are many ways perfection can make people crazy.

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