Clean Copy

posted in: Word Nerd 20
Ah, line edits. I know the feeling. Image: Wikipedia.
Ah, the red pen! I love it. Image: Wikipedia.


When I look back at entries from several years ago — like this one about the name of this blog, or this one about QVC handbags — it’s hard for me not to want to fix stuff. I feel like I hand over pretty clean copy here on the ol’ PG, but there was a time when I thought I should go back to the very, very beginning entries and revise/edit everything, but then I realized that I wanted to at least try and have a Normal Person Life.

It’s funny, though, because these days I actually feel happy to see how far I’ve come as a copy editor.

Because while it’s important to me that my style and syntax have improved (I think they have!) and while I hope my sentiments and how I express them have matured (have they?), clearly seeing that I’m picking up AP style skills is great news. All the sentiment in the world won’t connect with anyone if the writer doesn’t pay attention to the readability and consistency of her copy. And good copy editing is crucial to the writer as she tries to say what she wants to say. It’s all in the commas, man.

It’s funny, but it’s not my writing classes that get the credit for this improvement: It’s due to being an editor at the school newspaper, of course. When I was editor of Quilty magazine we had lots of eyeballs on all the text, obviously, and we were greatly aggrieved when we found a typo after the issue was printed. But rigorous, Associated Press-style copy editing isn’t the focus at most craft publishing houses, so if I were to go back through all those issues, I’d probably catch stuff.

Though I am well aware there are typos from time to time in PaperGirl, I’m confident that my hyphens, capitalizations, quotations, numbers, titles, etc., is as good as I can get it without the help of an outside editor. And I keep learning.

Just for fun, below are a few examples of sentences I wrote in an entry in 2013 — and  how I would edit those sentences, now. If you are into this kind of thing, you will be really into this. If you’re not, you will be like, “Mary, you are sweet but never give us copy editing examples ever again. Maybe consider describing paint drying.”

I know.

But for my fellow Word Nerds, enjoy. Just remember that I would surely make deeper edits on these sentences if I were working up a serious draft, but for now, the eagle-eyes out there will see the changes and it might make you smile.

All this stuff matters, it really does.

THEN: I bought $50.04 worth of hunter orange today to protect my kith and kin.
NOW: Today, I bought 50 dollars worth of “hunter” or “blaze” orange to protect my kith and kin.

THEN: [The] past few days have been ever-so-slightly tense — and it ain’t because we’ve been playing 6 hours of Yahtzee every day.
NOW: [The] past few days have been ever-so-slightly tense — and it ain’t because we’ve been playing six hours of Yahtzee every day. 

THEN: She was beautiful; pleasantly plump, with the creamy skin one can only achieve by being fed cheese curds from infancy.
NOW: She was beautiful. Pleasantly plump with the kind of creamy skin one can only achieve by being fed cheese curds from infancy.

Writing is so fun. Agh! I love it!!! 😀