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Love the transcript of the editorial brain in action! And thanks ever so much for pointing your readers to the "Editing Tools" page of the Copyeditors' Knowledge Base.


A question!
If 'bright-line' takes a hyphen, wouldn't the comma in “faculty want clear, bright line advice” need to go? (The bright-line rule is new to me.)

Carol Saller

Scrutatrix, without a comma, "clear" modifies "bright-line advice"; with a comma, it modifies "advice." Writer's choice.


Thank you for this! It's one of my biggest gripes about "unseasoned" editors who make up rules without doing any research. Lazy, lazy, lazy!

Jonathon Owen

Amen, LeaGalanter. A while back, one of my coworkers came across the phrase "raised the specter of a lawsuit" (or something close to it). Then she and another coworker started discussing what the phrase should be, and they settled on "raise the scepter" rather than "raise the specter."

I was both surprised and annoyed that, first of all, they weren't familiar with the phrase and therefore assumed that it was wrong and second, that they didn't bother to look it up in a dictionary or corpus or Google search and concocted an ill-informed miscorrection instead.

I think one of the most important skills a copy editor can have is to look up everything that they aren't sure of.

John Cowan

When I see an American using "whinge", I promptly whip out my whinger and demolish them.

Carol Saller

John, kindly put your whinger back where it belongs. (I try to keep the site clean for general audiences.)


Larry Kaufman

I too looked up whinge. Wouldn't it be better copy-editing to use whine, which no one would have to look up?


Ah, but Larry K., "whinge" is so much more evocative--to me, at least--than "whine" is. Besides, it should never be an editor's function to dumb down good writing.


It horrifies me that there are professional copy editors who don't look things up. When I worked in house, some colleagues would approach me to explain the rules - they claimed that CMS was too hard to use and they figured I'd probably know the answer. Surely this is an essential part of the job?

As for 'whinge', it's commonly used in Australian English. I think editors should celebrate the diversity and texture of language rather than trying to homogenise it.

Larry Kaufman

Whinge may be evocative, and in common use Down Under. But here we are in the good old U.S.of A. and I have to ask whether authors (in other than a purposely vocabulary-building environment) should choose words that need to be looked up when there are close-enough synonyms that readers will recognize. Isn't one of the functions of an editor to advocate to the author on behalf of the reader? Is the writer's goal to celebrate the diversity and texture of language, or to communicate? Or have I been unduly Strunked and Whited?

Carol Saller

Larry, the writer gets to decide what the goal is; the editor supports that goal.


Maija Rothenberg

Your post brings to mind the first time a manuscript of mine was copyedited. I was so excited -- I assumed the editor would do for me what I'd endeavored to do for my clients over the years: eliminate the errors that were invisible to the author and thus make the work better.

About 25 percent of her changes amounted to valuable corrections, for which I was grateful. Another 25 percent were optional changes I chose not to accept. The remaining 50 percent? Introduced errors, including misspellings! Clearly, she looked up not *one word* in the dictionary. She relied on her own (frequently incorrect) mental dictionary.

Susan Fine

i would like to bring you a donut? or would you prefer a doughnut? just let me know...

Carol Saller

Susan, if Jack LaLanne is inspiring you to get rid of yours (http://www.susanefine.com/), I'll take them however they're spelled! --Carol

Brandon Burt

Carol, in a future post, would you mind sharing more information about how you were radiologically brainscanned at UCH?

I'm curious whether the experiment involved monitoring your eye movements, placement of EEG electrodes on your scalp, insertion of brain probes, or even all three in combination with other strange technologies. (Lasers? Blood-borne isotopes?)

In any case, it sounds like a fascinating experience. Please tell us more!

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