In Praise of Copyeditors

I’m finishing up responding to a copyeditor’s suggestions and queries for a book on the language of public apologies. In an earlier post, I mentioned errors Jennifer Marcellus found in the early drafts of the manuscript. This post is about some of the work of the house copyeditors for Oxford University Press. As usual, the copyeditor made all sorts of interesting improvements to the copy. Here’s a sample of the edits.

Some were stylistic, to conform to the Chicago style:

    Before his death at the age of 60sixty, Goffman wrote eleven books studying social interactions. His work demonstrated that Eeveryday interactions, he showed, should not be taken at face value.
    He added that “Today, all we can do is apologize. But [only the survivors] . . . have the power to forgive.”

Here the editor changes the number to a numeral (you spell out up to a hundred). The editor also rearranged the second sentence to remove the interpolated “he showed” and make “his work” to the topic. In the second example the “that” is struck for conciseness. Other style changed included changing some upper case to lower and omitting the “of” in dates.

    The Ppresident added that, while he had been “disturbed” by the lobbying for representation on the Joint Chiefs of Staff, he was “certain that the Marine Corps itself does not indulge in such propaganda.”

    In 1947, HUAC held hearings on Ccommunists in Hollywood and Ccommunist themes in movies

    McCain’s plane, a Douglas A-4 Skyhawk, was shot down by a surface-to-air missile over Hanoi in October of 1967.

Despite my best efforts to cut unnecessary words, there were still plenty of places where the copyeditor made improvements:

    Goffman, he says, approaches apology too much from the point of view viewpoint of the offender, and treats treating it as a mere linguistic device for changing the meaning of an offense.

    Later it also added wWives, widows, and children were later added to the medical coverage.

    She reiterates the pride she took in citation her pride in proper citation and its importance to historians and by describing describes technological changes she made to her practice—computers, scanners, and “the mysterious footnote key on the computer” shown to her by her son.

    She goes on to concede concedes

In several places too, the copyeditor picked a more precise phrasing or readable syntax.

    Here In this statement Packwood asserted his convictions and framed his conduct as failing to live up to his own standards. He promised to change and asked for a chance to earn back constituents’ trust back.

    Truman went on to explain the circumstances context of his comments and to express his appreciation for their the Marines’ work.

    In While in prison, Tucker found religion.

    Packwood’s press conference and his two earlier previous apology attempts at apology illustrate the main themes of his defense over the next three years.

    And, according to Benoit, it can also mean blame shifting blame by offering another culprit.

Finally, there were some author queries, like this one:

    Wallace had denounced him as an “integratin’, carpetbaggin’, scalliwaggin’ liar” and once suggested he be given a “barbed wire-enema.” [AU: Please confirm placement of hyphens in this direct quote.]

I had misplaced the hyphen, which should go between “barbed” and “wire” of course. When I Googled the original quote, I began to get some frightening internet ads in the margin of the search engine.

Three cheers for copyeditors.

About Ed Battistella

Edwin Battistella’s latest book Dangerous Crooked Scoundrels was released by Oxford University Press in March of 2020.
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