Wednesday, July 22, 2015

The Better Angels of Our Writing

The Chronicle of Higher Education
July 20th, 2015

I am always shocked when academics complain about being copy-edited, as if the marks that come back on their manuscripts were pesky flies that should be shooed away.
My experience of receiving editing, both substantively and line by line, is that it’s like love. Good copy editors see me not just for who I am but for who I want to be, and they help me get there. They point out what I do well, but they also notice my tics and bad habits and try to break me of them.
When the copy editor for my latest book placed a little check mark over the name of a computer game, Snood, and then wrote in the margin ("snood.en.softonic.com"), I knew that her fact-checking was protecting me, and I felt grateful. When I dashed off a sentence in the manuscript about something starting to "stink and rot," she pointed out that things rot first and then they stink. She kept track of how often I used particular words and asked, kindly, if I was repeating them for a reason.

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