It seems every other book these days contains a vampire, a werewolf or, more commonly, a team of staggering zombies. Let’s talk about the latter. They are decidedly mean, violent, and relentless—not unlike your typical serial killer sitting in a faraway prison cell, which begs the question: how shall I treat said beasts in manuscripts that I’m editing?
Certain words are attached only to humans; other words are used only for things. A zombie is essentially a moving corpse, so is Dad still Dad if he’s no longer 100 percent human? Are such semantics considered by the reader, or will he or she care whether the creature is a “who” or a “what” needing a “who” or a “that”? This is why writers hire agonizers.
As always, I turned to the oracle, the omniscient source who takes me by both hands and guides me toward the sun: The Chicago Manual of Style. [I feel the same way about the AP Stylebook, just to be clear.] Continue reading →
One of my favorite I-remember-when one-liners — Katie Couric to Judge Judy: “I got into news when ‘harass’ was two words.”
Say it out loud, people.
And below is a bonus pic, because I couldn’t resist: a sexist ad from 1969, when housewives apparently deserved a talking-to. This kind of stuff makes my jaw drop. She looks a bit drugged out, or maybe she’s thinking about a safe place to burn her bra. Thank goodness this blatant crap went the way of the capital “T”in the tagline. Oh, advertising. Continue reading →
Some friends and family think I’m a copywriter. It does sound similar to “copy editor” and looks a lot like its smashed-together cousin “copyeditor.” No worries. Despite my smartassness, I’m not a hater. I get it. But if I had a job writing sarcastic gold like this, I might switch professions.
One of the many duties of a copy editor is catching small mistakes that can damage credibility. For example, see if you can spot the typo in this ad that appeared in Tacoma’s News Tribune last December:
I am five years younger than the newest hire [at this newspaper], and I am infinitely more efficient, clear with my writing, and communicative with my sources than the new reporter. [She] constantly works overtime, is defensive to managers, and is overall awkward and completely aloof to her bizarre treatment of sources, other reporters, and bosses. I wonder why nobody ever suggested to this girl that she pursue copyediting instead of reporting….
In December, I published a post about John Waters’ computer auto-correcting his initials to read JEW. Then I saw this nugget about newly appointed Secretary of State John Kerry. It’s not quite clear who is kidding whom here. (Just kidding.)
Evan Robertson, a New York–based graphic designer and writer, created a line of striking illustrations based on quotes from famous authors. He described his inspiration for the series in a Huffington Post interview, deftly breaking it down for the Internet generation: Continue reading →
I was walking down the street, when I noticed an elderly man looking at me from the storefront up ahead. As I approached, we locked eyes and he hollered, “INDIAN CHIEF!” Was it the nerdy glasses? I took it as a compliment.
I’ve experienced a specific kind of hell on Earth on more than one occasion. It has nothing to do with music yet everything to do with performance. I’m all for creative expression, but may I ask why poetry is too often read in the most unnatural manner possible? I know I’m not the only one who’s been stuck sitting there like a good puppy, eager to listen, ready to be enlightened, shaken, somehow affected. But something kept happening, something distracting, and finally it forced me to scoot out the door with a sneeze-face. Continue reading →
Some people, like software engineers, make useful things for a living. Other people, like workers in a state unemployment office, make misery for a minimum of one full hour. I endured a phone call from one such person, a dour and condescending lady-robot sliding off the mild end of the autistic spectrum. I haven’t been spoken to like that since I was five. Perhaps she was elitist and judgmental, perhaps she had been encouraged to be suspicious, or maybe she simply hated herself for not getting fired from her horrible job. Wouldn’t it be the sweetest slice of irony to have her get the business-end of a phone call from her former employer?
Why the phone interview? The state had suddenly stopped depositing funds into my account a month earlier because they realized that I made a small error on my application. Contact me for clarification? Pshaw! Obviously I was trying to steal from them to perpetuate a lazy lifestyle. Who actually wants to work and feel fulfilled? Continue reading →
The last time I wrote you a letter, you ignored me. Why was a swimming pool full of plastic balls out of the question? It was only a little bigger than Chuck E. Cheese’s. I guess I should have just asked for a Blondie concert in our backyard. Anyway, I thought I would try again, this time with an adult list of commands. See to it, or I will tell everyone that you’re a fraud. They will believe me because they know that I know things.
the power to make me follow through on my threats
a magic red pencil that always has a sharp point a red pen
a part-time job naming babies, pets, drugs, and nail polish—I can freelance
In my line of work, as in life, things of a lewd nature creep up from time to time. I spent one day replacing every fucking with fuckin’ in a certain character’s dialogue to better convey his Scottish brogue. I quite enjoyed that one.
Then there was the author who had written about a young girl who fisted in her dress. My eyeballs skidded to a halt. Sure, I realized that she curled up her tiny hand into a ball inside the pocket of her dress. But using fist as a verb requires an object; you must fist something, and such an action is not appropriate for a young lass. I flagged the sentence with a query that described the technicality, further explaining that the action word carries a vulgar connotation even if that wasn’t the intention.
Now is a good time to point out that the copyeditor’s credo was established long before the MTA inserted it into their subway ads: if you see something, say something.
When John Waters signs his emails JW, his computer tends to auto-correct it to read JEW (yes, all caps). Sometimes he doesn’t catch it in time and it’s sent out this way. Oh, to receive an email like that: Blah-blah-blah. Sincerely, JEW. Now that’s pride in one’s tribe.