Tuesday, May 25, 2010

And When They Are Good, They're Golden


I do so much complaining about copyeditors, I thought it only fair that I write about the superb copyeditor who worked with me on The Babylonian Codex.

I doubt there’s a writer alive who doesn’t need a copyeditor. Some of the changes they make are to bring a manuscript into line with house style rules (and yes, those rules can vary from house to house). But it’s also their job to look up all kinds of esoteric minutiae and therefore keep authors from making asses of themselves (and in a novel like this one, we’re talking about a lot of esoteric minutiae). Most copyeditors don’t bother to do that. This one did. She also caught some lapses in my thought process—like, if Tobie is running away, how does she know that the guy behind her was just shot in the leg? (Oops) She even noticed that I was giving almost everyone gray eyes!

After all the years I spent in England and Australia, I evidently still have some British usages in my writing, and she had to catch all those, too: windscreen instead of windshield, floodlamps instead of floodlights, leapt instead of leaped, grey instead of gray, etc. And then there are all those pesky words that I can never remember if they’re hyphenated or not, joined or not: peacoat, seat belt, globe-trotting, surefire, nutcase. And did you know that quotes are not used around a word preceded by called or known as? I didn’t. Now, thanks to a great copyeditor, I do.

Thank you, Ellen Leach.


Charles Gramlich said...

Good to hear they still exist. I find that I actually have a fair number of British usuages, not because I've ever been there but because of the stuff I grew up reading. I often use grey instead of gray, and sulphur instead of sulfur

Anonymous said...

Hah - I laugh as I rant eternally to my poor daughter, whom I've been reading to since she was little, how I hate that everyone is now using words that end in "ed" - like leaped instead of leapt and sneaked instead of snuck. Do we say sleeped instead of slept? NO. I tell you it is just wrong!! She is now nine and just rolls her eyes at me. I think all these past tense words that have been changed to make them end in "ed" just sound stupid. OK, so can you tell this is something that has been buggin' me for quite some time. I never knew that it was the British version of the words. It is how I learned to say/read them. Are you sure this isn't just recent switching to them - say in the last 15 years? Thanks for letting me get it off my chest. Umm...so glad you found a good copy editor. Insert embarrassed face here. Sabena

Anonymous said...

I've been tracking down your old romances, while I wait for the next Sebastian book.
Am enjoying Whispers of Heaven at the moment, and last night noticed one that the copy editor missed - in one scene the hero is riding a gray gelding, but when he unsaddles it a few hours later, it has suddenly become a mare.

cs harris said...

Charles, I suspect my reading habits reinforce it, too.

Sabena, it really irritates me when they change my "t" endings to "ed" in my Sebastian books.

Lesley, oh, dear! This is why I have never read one of my books after it's published--I don't want to see all the errors I missed but can no longer do anything about.

Susan/DC said...

The gelding to mare transformation reminds me of an (in)famous book review on All About Romance. The book got an F-, the minus for the poor horse because the author had changed a stallion to a gelding within about 3 pages.

As for grey versus gray, I had no idea one was the British version and one the American, just thought they were both acceptable variations.

Bernita said...

Am too guilty of Britishisms such as "grey" and leapt," and the Latinisms as well, like "asafoetida," the "ae's" and oe's."
And I have a hyphen-habit which must have made my copy editor stand on her chair and scream.

orannia said...

See, that sounds like a great job! I love things like that.

And Sabena - I'm so with you on leapt vs leaped! The powers that be (Education Department) decided (stupidly IMHO) to stop teaching grammar in schools when I was ~10 years old. So, my grandfather, who was talk English by a Welshman (who used to mumble on about colonials :) set me to rights. And I'm ever so grateful.

My pet peeve is colour vs color...what did the 'u' ever do to be dismissed in such a cavalier fashion? *grin*

cs harris said...

Susan, I quit reading AAR when they gave my second book a nasty review with a C-. The Bequest then went on to be nominated for a RITA and sold more books than any of my other romances. And yeah, it still stings!

Bernita, I think creative types are rarely obsessive about grammar. I try to get it right, but my focus is on too many other things. I figure that's why they have copyeditors.

Orannia, my problem is I moved in and out of the British-speaking world so many times I am hopelessly confused about what is and isn't American usage.

Anonymous said...

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soma taha said...

Fairly certain he will have a very good read