As the publishing industry evolves, media and publishing independents have witnessed the dissolution of the full-time copy editor. Among magazine, news media, and book publishing entities, an in-house copy chief is often considered a luxury of days gone by. The expense of the full-time position is often too difficult to justify, and the responsibility of clean copy can fall on in-house production teams.
English is hard. According to the Oxford Royale Academy, it’s one of the top five most difficult languages in the world today. So why do we, as writers and especially as editors, accept making our jobs that much more difficult by using so many different style guides?
The editor must help the author express their art as truly as they can while balancing the vision of the publisher, and by extension bring the truth of the community back in the form of a published work. And, like any intimate relationship, it is not always easy, nor quick and painless.
Maintaining the attitude of a descriptivist rather than a prescriptivist when editing, particularly for fiction and memoir, is crucial to preserving an author’s voice.
Amid all the excitement of my book deal, having a bit of background knowledge about the inner workings of traditional publishing definitely helped keep me from getting overwhelmed.
Opinions are like . . . you know: everybody’s got one. House editing style guides and preferences are no different. Browse through any random collection of imprint house publications, periodicals, or online articles, and you’ll witness a menagerie of guides, including The Chicago Manual of Style (CMOS), the Associated Press Stylebook(AP), and a smattering of personal preferences seemingly chosen at random. The resulting style format can resemble an amalgamation of spare parts—something akin to a Frankenstein’s monster of house style. The curious aspect is the specific, obscure details individual editors decide to take a stand on—the hills upon which they choose to fight and die.