The Subversive Copy Editor (Part I)

There are two editing books that deserve space (not that they require much of it, being the pithy publications that they are) on every editor’s shelf: Strunk and White’s Elements of Style and Carol Fisher Saller’s Subversive Copy Editor.

Upon seeing The Subversive Copy Editor lying on our bed recently, my husband assumed that the book was a novel and asked me about it. Ha! No doubt Saller could tell many a story about her years with the Chicago Manual of Style, but TSCE is about, as the subtitle says, “how to negotiate good relationships with your writers, your colleagues, and yourself.”

The first half of the book is about working with writers, and Saller stresses that editors must exhibit transparency, flexibility, and care when dealing with a writer’s work, and I couldn’t agree more. Transparency is about being upfront with writers and letting them know how and why your editing decisions are being made. Flexibility is about allowing the spirit of editing to rule the day instead of blindly following rules to the letter for the sake of, well, following rules to the letter. And showing care is obvious: excel as an editor by knowing your trade. Above all, obey the first law of editing, which is to introduce no errors into a text.

In a publishing world where copy editing is often done on the cheap and where text is riddled with errors, it’s a pleasure to read the wise, trenchant writing of Strunk, White, and Saller.

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One response to “The Subversive Copy Editor (Part I)

  1. Pingback: In lieu of coherent thought | Michelle Moriarity Witt

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