OT: McKinley

mks at brisingamen.demon.co.uk mks at brisingamen.demon.co.uk
Wed Feb 18 03:12:51 EST 2004


On Wed, 18 Feb 2004 06:40:07 +0000, you wrote:

>Ahhh a copy editor.  A real live copy editor to whom I can express my 
>appreciation!  I can't tell you how many times I've been reading a book and 
>have thought, 'Where was the copyeditor?? Did the publishers cheap out?'  

I've been told that copy editors are, if not a dying breed, then a
luxury rather than a necessity. Some publishers seem to cut corners,
either that or else I've picked up an entirely erroneous idea of
what's required of a copy editor. I well remember reading a book on
the history of gardening and, in the first three pages, spotting a
series of deeply egregious errors - there was a comment about the
several hundred lines of a poem I knew to be some fifty lines long, a
confusion between gods, demi-gods and something I now forget, a
misquotation. I remember thinking 'what was the copy editor thinking
of?' before concluding that, clearly, he or she hadn't. Had I worked
on that manuscript, I'd have checked and queried as a matter of
course, I have that kind of mind and believe that on the whole authors
are as fallible as the rest of us, but for whatever reason this hadn't

My husband often comments that he wishes he hadn't given me X or Y
book because I comment so much about its structure; as I explain, I am
simply reading it on two levels, one of which pleases me less than the
other. In the past year I've seen work by established academics which
has been patched together in such a way as to leave repetitions of
certain facts all over the place, and works of popular scientific and
literary culture which were just plain sloppy; in once instance the
author claimed to have conducted research in a particular university
institution, in which case he must have known what it was actually
called. But if he got it wrong, the c/e should have checked.

>And yes, I have definitely read a book and thought afterward, 'You know, 
>that was a good copy editor. There wasn't a mistake anywhere.'  I definitely 
>notice and appreciate your work!

In which case, thank the proof reader too, the last defence against
terrible things happening.
>I used to read her in my teens/early 20's, which is odd in retrospect 
>because I don't care about vampires much. Oh yes, I remember - it was the 
>scope of time I liked. The last book I tried to read was Violin (circa 95?). 
>  At the very least it needed a strong copy editor.  It needed a lot of 
>things -and that was only the first 30 pages, which was as far as I could 
She apparently stopped using the services of editors about 16 years
ago, an unwise move, I feel, and not merely because I have a vested


Maureen Kincaid Speller
Folkestone, Kent, UK

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