Sunday, January 17, 2021

To Hyphenate or Not to Hyphenate ...

Who wins when you and your copy editor or proofreader disagree about a word, a spelling, a term of slang, etc? Do you sometimes choose to lose a battle in order to win a larger war?

Brenda Chapman starting off another week at 7 Criminal Minds.

Whether for good or ill, I'm not a fighter when it comes to editorial battles. This doesn't mean that I don't voice my opinion and quote from the grammar book when I have a point to make. However, I'll bow to a good argument and always accept my publisher's adherence to their style guide. The editors are the experts after all.

The strange thing is that I once had an editorial job in the government. I was the one making sure government documents followed the style guide. Rewriting sentences so that they were clear and easy to read. Checking spelling and grammar. I even edited the internal weekly newsletter for the Department of Justice when my colleague took a six-week holiday.

Yet somehow, I still send in my (what I believe to be) completed manuscript, only to discover all kinds of sentence structure errors. Punctuation and grammar slip-ups. Inconsistencies. Illogical plot points. I've learned to stay humble.

I've come to believe that it takes a village of proof readers and editors to make a manuscript book-worthy to a standard fit for publication. For one thing, as every writer knows, you can read and reread a piece of writing so many times that your brain skips over small errors, seeing what it knows should be there. It's also easy to mix up details over a 90,000-word story, and the editor will be on the lookout for these inconsistencies. 

All this to say, the editor or proofreader not only looks at the manuscript in minutiae but also as a whole. This includes in the context of the uniformity and standards for all the other books released by the same publisher. I always keep this in mind when reviewing the editor's suggested changes. 

Now as to the analogy about choosing to lose a battle to win a larger war, I've never actually looked at my work with any of the editors in this way. I choose to think we're battling on the same side to make the books as good a product as it can be. If there is a war, it's against those pesky typos and other errors that always seem to unexplainably slip in, possibly because some edits are not always accepted in the final product. Too many versions being circulated perhaps.

In any event, my hat is off to anyone who takes on an editing role, which involves an intricate set of knowledge and skill, honed with every project in a constantly evolving industry. I'm always glad to have the editors on my team, even if I sometimes disagree with the placement of a comma or two.


Twitter: brendaAchapman

Facebook: BrendaChapmanAuthor


Dietrich Kalteis said...

Well said, Brenda. It really does take a village.

Brenda Chapman said...

Thanks Dietrich!

Frank Zafiro said...

It amazes me how mistakes (typos and grammar) can slip through. I see it in my own work. I see it in big publisher works (there were a couple in Michael Connelly's latest). Like you said, a village of people combed through these manuscripts for the expressed purpose of eradicating these little demons and still... they slip through.

It's like we're all human or something.


P.S. Thanks for taking part in the 100 episode celebration of the podcast, Brenda. It was good to hear your voice again.

Brenda Chapman said...

Thanks Frank and it was entirely my pleasure. Congrats again on reaching 100 podcast shows!