What I learned today…

I love copy editors.  Okay, that’s not what I learned today…I’ve known this for quite some time now. They make me look so much smarter and professional than I actually am. It’s their job to fix my faux paws (and yes that was an intentional typo). Every time I go over all those little red penned marks I learn something new.

Yesterday I received back one of the sets of edits for Hollow World and I’m always fascinated by the style sheets and list of compound words.  Should it be afterlife…after life…or after-life?  Keeping an eagle eye out for such things, then making them consistent throughout the text is just part of what copy editors do to make me look good.

Not to mention the fact checking.  It would have never occurred to me that the stadium for the Washington Redskins is FedExField (all one word with three capital letters. I wrote it as FedEx Field.  It’s this type of incredible attention to detail, that is just one of the things that I love about copy editors.

I’m also amazed at the evolution of language and all the inconsistencies that make it nearly impossible for you to keep everything in your head.  For instance, backyard is one word but front yard is two.  Why for the love of everything holy?!  I can’t tell you how many times I’ve written back yard. Apparently flower beds are still in transition as both flowerbed and flower bed are equally acceptable. And don’t even get me started on the plural of words ending in “f”.  A gabled house may have many roofs, but my horse has four hooves. Gah!

But getting back to the topic at hand I learned another funny thing about the English language and that has to do with hyphen and the differences between adjectives and nouns.

For instance let’s take air conditioning.  When used as a noun there is no hyphen but when it becomes an adjective you need one.  So while the air conditioning is cooler than I would like, it’s probably because the air-conditioning unit is malfunctioning.  Likewise, my main character’s wife works in real estate, and has had her real-estate license for many years.

They always say you shouldn’t edit your own work.  And I agree with this.  But the often stated reason is that you “know” your stuff so well that you don’t see the errors. I actually think there is a much more important reason…copy editors spend so much time with these little idiosyncrasies of the English language that it is second nature to them.  They know what to look out for. They have seen the same stupid mistakes over and over again and go looking or common blunders.

In any case, Rhune will be once again placed on the back burner (and yes I had to look that  up as I had originally wrote it as backburner) so I can go over these copy edits.  I actually have some other news  on the Hollow World front, but I’ll leave that for another day.

3 thoughts on “What I learned today…

  1. If you enjoy things like this, I recommend the book “Grammar Snobs Are Great Big Meanies” by June Casagrande. Lots of great anecdotes and it’s a funny, quick read.

  2. Awesome. Thanks for the laughs. And, let’s not forget that some of these things (for instance, until recently, backyard was left as two words for those who lived by AP standards) still aren’t quite decided upon. English is a tricky language. But a language I just love! 🙂

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