copy editor


Our pal Linda Holmes has a lovely remembrance of Washington Post copy editor Bill Walsh, who died yesterday of complications of bile duct cancer.

Copy editors are quality junkies; there is nothing else to drive them. Their names will not appear on the writing they make better, they are increasingly overburdened almost everywhere, and if they are imagined by the average reader at all, it’s often as nitpicky technicality cops.

What a great copy editor is instead, and what Bill Walsh was to me, is both that exacting crafter of print at the atomic level and a final eye for good sense.

Read her full piece here.

– Petra

A key piece from 3x17 that I think we have all overlooked. Somewhat brought up in blog post. I’m VERY EXCITED about this development:

Nursey is a good copy editor!

Being a good writer or interested in literature does not automatically make you a good copy editor. Even having an eye for typos does not automatically make you a good copy editor. Being a good copy editor involves adherence to strict and sometimes arbitrary rules, a grasp of the fine line between accuracy and pedantry, and a devotion to efficiencies and standards of communication. And it reveals SO MUCH about Nursey’s character.

I’ve often wondered what Nursey really cares about, what gets his goat and what gets him excited. This is the first insight I’ve really had into that. Nursey cares not just about the art of language but also its mechanics. He cares about precision and accuracy. He’s the sort of guy who notices if you hyphenated “free-standing” on page 2 but left it “freestanding”on page 7. Nursey’s an observant guy. He notices things, and he remembers.

The blog post gave us even more. Nursey will help you make decisions abut which stylebook to use in which context. He’s aware of the different registers and modes of written language. He has feelings about tone. Politeness. Social mores. Nursey is a guy who’s deliberate, and thoughtful, and can choose in which way he wants to present himself.

If he writes poetry, he recognizes when and how to use the conventions of it – if he’s writing free verse, he knows exactly what he’s freeing it from. Nursey’s the kind of guy who uses an anapest on purpose, and knows its name. He doesn’t let the words flow - he crafts them, carefully, with an eye toward matching form and function. If he has tendencies toward excess, he tries to tame them, as best he can. He’s aware that he, as a writer, needs an editor.

He cares about things being effective. Efficiency is a value to him. Saying or doing things with the minimum amount of fuss, being able to deliver on a promise made (in a thesis or with a handshake) - these are things that matter. Having the practical tools to get the job done matters to him.

Now think about Dex. And what kind of a person Dex is by nature.

How can Nursey not be attracted to that?

Now, as adherents of the great and terrible AP Stylebook — which also eschews the Oxford comma — we must admit the moral of this story flies in the face of everything (or one thing) NPR’s own sentences stand for.

But we offer these stories as a reminder that every punctuation mark deserves a fair hearing, a glimpse into the glories of grammar(,) and a quiet rebellion against the tyranny of copy editors everywhere.*

*Just a joke, NPR copy desk! Please don’t break out the red pen.

The Oxford Comma: Great For Listing, Pontificating, And Winning Court Cases

Image by Chelsea Beck/NPR

Ferus Ferrum

It would be difficult to secure funding for a literary journal in a standard university - at Elsewhere, most professors wouldn’t dare. Going to the Dean to beg for money, it would be too much like a deal, a favor owed - even if the Dean wasn’t one of them, you didn’t make tenure at EU by taking unnecessary risks.

So it’s difficult, but not impossible - which is why everyone is slightly in awe of Professor Howell, when the petite, soft-spoken poetry professor announces to her classes that she’s looking for volunteer readers and editors.

They call the journal Ferus Ferrum, and their submissions come from across the country. The staff are all English or Creative Writing majors - they know the Rules, and Professor Howell trains them well. The editors learn how to create an email database, how to solicit submissions without “please” or “thank you”; they choose pen names and debate different weights of paper and call the printers to ask if their toner contains iron oxide.

When the first issue is printed they have a release party, with pizza and cake and a tray of vanilla pudding from the dining hall tucked into the corner. There is a palpable but unspoken amazement in the air that they made it, that the journal is sitting in front of them finished, and no one was mysteriously disappeared or even “borrowed,”, and everyone is filled with awe and pride and a fierce kind of victory over the particular entropy of Elsewhere.

So of course, at the end of the party Professor Howell makes an announcement to her staff: she’s leaving.

Not for good. They’ve never known a professor to leave EU, although they don’t think about it particularly hard. She’s pregnant, she tells them, and she’s going to take the next year off for maternity leave. She’s convinced a colleague to take over advising Ferus Ferrum, Professor Chapel, and he’s new.

As they walk back to dorms and parking lots, Howell takes her editors aside. He’s new, she tells them, and they nod, but they don’t understand. They’re writers and they learned the Rules quick, and they all secretly believe that the people who don’t realize the strangeness of Elsewhere are hiding something.

Professor Chapel walks into the first editorial meeting of the next year and the poetry editor looks to the nonfiction reader on her right and they both think, “Ah, he’s new.” Chapel grins freely and stammers and bleeds apologies. He has a tattoo that is a reference four-places removed from a Dickinson poem, and he gushes at length about an obscure short story he read in his first year of grad school. He’s a wonderful professor, and an excellent advisor, and he hasn’t the faintest clue about the Rules. The Ferus Ferrum staff, new and old, take one look at him and realize he’s a sitting duck.

With the steel resolve of their first issue backing them, the head copy editor immediately begins organizing the troops. Two fictions readers who work together at a cafe smuggle out salted bagels and a photo editor delivers them to Professor Chapel’s office every morning. Someone produces a fountain pen with a ring of iron below the grip and hands it over as a welcome present. In meetings they make sure to rib him when he missteps around the “school traditions,” and make an inside joke of talking to the crows. He is constantly puzzled by the salt packets that make their way into his bag, his coat pockets, the corners of his office.

It’s a massive undertaking, and requires almost as much coordination as putting the journal itself together. Which is why it’s so disappointing when “Professor Chapel” walks into a meeting late with sharp teeth and golden eyes.

(They give him back a couple days later, thankfully. At least he doesn’t complain about the salt packets anymore.)


It was the Economist. His grammar was superb and tone was scathing. Lucius Fox wrote a reply supporting Damian’s opinion and was very disturbed eight years later when Damian brought up their correspondence over sushi while Bruce was lost in time. It did explain why the college student turned down the Wayne Enterprises internship despite their interest in the business.

I can’t even imagine what it must have sounded like –
the alarms, the gunshots, the screams, the begging,
the praying, the laughter, the cheering, the crying.
I know the sound of Eric’s laugh. I know the sound
of Dylan’s voice. I’ve heard a fragment of a recording.
And I still can’t piece it together enough to hear the horror.

I can’t even imagine what it must have looked like –
the muzzle of a Tec-9 in your face,
the black boots walking past you as you hide under a table,
the boy in a trench-coat, in the hallway, with a shotgun.
Blood on the floor and blood exploding out of someone’s head,
and blood pouring out of a hole in someone’s back.

I can’t even imagine what it must have smelt like –
metallic blood, the stench of open wounds,
smoke from pipe bombs, shit and piss and sweat,
your own body odour, cafeteria lunch food,
linoleum floors, body spray, the inside of a toilet cubicle,
the inside of a storage cupboard, the smells of school and death.

I can’t even imagine what it must have felt like –
begging for your life at gunpoint while the killer laughs,
watching children being murdered
right in front of you, seeing TV violence in real life.
Closing your eyes and listening to people dying and begging
and crying and praying and whooping and whispering.

Realising that you might actually really die right here,
on the floor of a library, in an unlocked science room,
in a toilet stall, under the table of a cafeteria. Trying to pray
to any god listening that you want to live, please, please, please.
But what good did it do the other children? What good did it do
for the kids you heard getting killed?

Running out of the library and past a dead body and past
another dead body, with your hands above your head,
so the police don’t shoot you, of course.
Standing by a cop car with the images still playing in your head,
and the sounds of gunfire still ringing in your ears,
not knowing if your friends are dead or alive.

Being faced with cameras and reporters and microphones,
and an unending barrage of questions:
What did you see? What did you hear? How did you feel?
What happened? Do you know who the killers were? Why?
Where were you? What did you do? Did you talk to the killers?
Were you friends with the killers? Do you know the Trench Coat Mafia?

I can’t even imagine what it must have been like
to actually be a student or a teacher or a reporter or a photographer
or a cameraman or a journalist or a copy editor or an editor in chief
or a police officer or a SWAT team member or a paramedic or a nurse
or a doctor or the parent of a victim or the parent of someone injured
or a friend of a student or a bomb squad member or a family member.

We’ve all seen the chaos unfolding, live on the news.
We’ve seen the police standing behind cars and we’ve seen
students running for their lives, students bleeding on sidewalks,
parents hunting for children, parents hugging their kids,
people standing around and crying and holding one another,
ambulances racing and sirens blaring and cameras rolling,
but imagine living it.
—  Dear Columbiners, not everything is about Eric and Dylan, s.b.w.
On Editing

This was forwarded to me by a former colleague who attended a course on how to publish/edit a book. You probably already know most of these tips, but there might be something you’ll find helpful, who knows…


GENERAL STRUCTURE OF THE BOOK (what the story is and how it is being told):

  • What is the book about? What is the driving force behind the narrative?
  • Who is the audience for this book?
  • Is it based on real experience?
  • Does the story work? Are there any parts that feel unconvincing or where the narrative drags? 
  • Are there any parts I don’t understand?
  • What is the trajectory or the shape of the story?
  • Does the story start in the right place?
  • How quickly do I become immersed in the book?
  • Are there any points where my immersion in the story is broken, or I lose interest?
  • Do I believe in what I’m reading?
  • How satisfying is the ending? Does it feel inevitable?
  • Does it feel like anything is missing?
  • Is there anything extraneous (characters, detail, unnecessary plot points)?
  • What is the narrative point of view (first person, second person, third person)? Does it change? Is it consistent? Does it work? What might be lost or gained if the story were told another way?
  • Is the tense consistent? If it changes, is it necessary?
  • Does coincidence feature as a plot device? If so, is there another way to engineer the same events?

Keep reading

Using Fragments and Other Rules of Grammar to Break in Fiction

 A copy editor made a comment on my latest manuscript that pointed out, “this is a fragment.” Yes, it was a fragment. As a fiction writer, I’m allowed to break all the rules that I had to learn when I was in high school and college about writing an essay well. I’m not a journalist. I’m not a nonfiction writer. I’m not trying to get an A anymore. And I’m not sure I even believe you have to know the rules to break them (though I still have my own little pet peeves). 

Here is a list of rules I’ve broken and I think everyone should break:

1.      Writing fragments.

2.      Starting sentences with “and” and “but.”

3.      Splitting infinitives

4.      Using “they” as a gender neutral singular pronoun.

5.      Using shall/will the way you want, according to how you think those words “feel.” (Yeah, I’m going there.)

6.      Breaking the fourth wall.

7.      Writing about going to the bathroom.

8.      Using curse words.

9.      Spelling things wrong on purpose.

10.  Using “ain’t.”

11.  Anyways/anyhows/anywhos.

12.  Using words in the way most people use them instead of the way the dictionary defines them.

13.  Using big words entirely incorrectly. For funsies.

tips for making your résumé even stronger
  • never, ever use just one blanket résumé for every job you apply to
  • revamp your wording to match up with the specific job listing to which you’re applying
  • having the right keywords is crucial because many jobs use algorithms to screen applications for certain skills and experience
  • make it easy to read by cutting out complicated jargon
  • don’t use Times New Roman
  • experts say Times New Roman communicates a lack of thoughtfulness, since it’s the most common default typeface
  • consider fonts that are similarly professional, but that might pop a bit more: Helvetica, Garamond or Proxima Nova for example
  • break up dense blocks of text
  • stick with reverse chronological order (more recent jobs should be listed first)
  • limit yourself to black type on white paper — which is safe and classic — or two other colors. three or more shades, and you might not be taken seriously
  • copy edit like your life depends on it: no typos or grammatical errors!
  • have a friend who is smart and attentive to detail review your résumé with a fine-toothed comb
  • or hire a copy editor to go over it (they can cost as low as $5 per thousand words)
  • axe the “objective statement” — unless you’re changing careers
  • bold the most important words
  • let your story jump out of the page, so that someone who’s scanning your résumé in 6 to 10 seconds can get the big picture. 
  • do not get creative with the truth. obvious lies will get your résumé thrown out
  • have a skeptical reader go through your résumé to check statements that seem to stretch the truth
  • ask yourself one thing to make sure you’re not bending the truth

Originally posted by sebuttianstans

Pairing: Sebastian Stan x Female Reader
Rating: T 
Warnings: No real warnings - mild language, references to sex.
Summary: You’re having the worst day imaginable and find some kindness where you aren’t expecting it.
Author’s Note: I can’t believe the feedback I’ve gotten from the other Seb stories that I’ve written lately. You guys are the best! This is a little shorter than usual, but it popped into my head randomly. Again, I just want to reiterate that I don’t know him, and that there’s no harm intended with these stories. Any similarities between real life and these stories are coincidence. 

You’re having the absolute worst day of your life. You’ve just been fired from your job over an issue that was definitely not your fault, and you just realized you left your wallet at home, meaning you have to trudge all the way back to your apartment with a box of your things instead of taking a cab like you wanted to.

You feel like you’re two seconds away from bursting into tears, so you shove your headphones into your ears and start heading to your apartment. The minute you step outside with your box, the clouds open up and it starts pouring down rain.

“Of fucking course.” You say out loud, a semi-hysterical laugh leaving your mouth. It turns into a sob, though, as your shoulders slump.

“Are you okay?” A voice asks, and you glance up to see a man with an umbrella looking at you, concerned.

“F-fine,” you mumble, embarrassed.

“No offense, but you don’t look fine.” He says, and when you blink in response, his eyes widen. “Not that you don’t look fine! I just mean– you look upset.”

You can’t help but smile softly at him as he gets flustered. “I’m just having a bad day. I’ll be fine.”

He returns your smile, a faint blush on his cheeks. “Are you going very far?” He asks, gesturing towards the box in your hands. “No free hand for an umbrella.”

“Just a few blocks. I’ll probably get a cab.”

Keep reading

You Have No Idea

At lunch with a friend recently, I heard the following,

“Every time I sit down to write, I just know that it’s terrible and I cringe that anyone has to read it, so I’m really glad I’m not a writer.”

My friend wasn’t a writer by profession. She was just talking about the writing she has to do for her regular job. Nonetheless, I told her that if she were a writer, I would tell her that the first thing she needs to do is get rid of the idea that she knows in advance if something she writes is going to be good or bad. The attitude that so many people have (often instilled in them from bad writing teachers in school) is what prevents a lot of us from unlocking our writing potential.

You’re not a bad writer.

You’re just getting started.

Telling yourself that you’re bad is the best way to never get started.

This idea that we prejudge what we’re good or bad at before we even put words to the page is just so damaging. And in our culture, people do it all over the place. I’m bad at music because I can’t just pick up an instrument and play a concerto. I’m bad at cooking because I burn things sometimes. I’m bad at exercising because I’m overweight or slow. I’m bad at dancing because I have to focus so hard on listening to the music that sometimes I step on someone else’s foot.

Caring about other people’s opinions is half the problem.

The other half of the problem is not giving yourself a chance.

I’m not saying everyone is destined to become Yo-Yo Ma if they’d just practice every day. But you can enjoy things even if you’re not making a profession out of them. And you may be surprised if you give yourself a chance to see what you can do if you stop telling yourself it’s impossible.

Everyone is bad to begin with. Yes, even professionals. My first draft of a novel is often terrible. And most of my ideas are laughably bad. You just don’t see all of them because I accept that most of what I write is going to be bad and I give myself permission to make mistakes and try it anyway. Then I choose the best parts. Later.

You have no idea what’s going to be good or bad while you’re producing it. This is one of the first rules that I think creative types need to learn. Especially at the beginning, you’re going to feel uncomfortable trying things out and you’re going to have to learn to withhold judgment for a little while.

I’m sitting right now on a short story that I’ve decided I need to give a couple of months before I decide whether or not I should send it out. That’s normal for me. Sometimes, I’m pleasantly surprised at how good something I wrote is. Sometimes the reverse happens and I put it away. Sometimes I cut out six chapters in a book and rewrite them all. Sometimes the idea of the book is good but every single word I’ve got down is wrong and it’s time to start from the beginning. This doesn’t mean I’m a bad writer. It means I’m a writer.

This process of judging good from bad is part of being a writer, but you’ve got nothing to judge if you don’t give yourself a chance.

I don’t know who told you that you’re a bad writer, but that’s not their job. A teacher isn’t supposed to give that as feedback. They’re supposed to help you get better. Spelling mistakes and run-on sentence issues are not problems that have stopped a bunch of professional writers I know. Trust me on this. That’s what copy editors are for.

Stop pre-judging your efforts before you even try. I mourn sometimes for the great works of literature we will never see because so many people think that they’re no good because it’s not perfect out of the chute. You have no idea.

very important tidbits about the caps

this is all from the “breakaway” program that I got at the game yesterday

  • Karl Alzner’s favorite movie is Hook
  • Nicky Backstrom and Brett Connolly’s favorite TV show is Suits
  • Andre Burakovsky is afraid of heights
  • Lars Eller’s favorite athlete is Michael Phelps (somehow they kind of look alike?)
  • Grubi is a photographer
  • Mojo and Winnik watch Game of Thrones
  • Kuzy’s favorite food is Borscht XD
  • Nisky likes going fishing
  • Alex Ovechkin likes Russell Crowe and somehow that’s very fitting
  • Nate Schmidt watches Family Guy and is afraid of snakes
  • Tom Wilson watches One Tree Hill with the brobeans shirtless while crying and eating Ben & Jerry’s

in other news, this program needs a copy editor because Ovi’s favorite movie is “Glaiator” >.<