By Claire Booth
I got the copy edited manuscript for Another Man’s Ground four days ago. This is the stage when a person of exacting standards and keen grammatical skill scrutinizes every word, punctuation mark, and fact in 338 pages of text. This person is my best friend.
I’m reading through everything – accepting changes, evaluating suggestions, answering questions. I’m about halfway through and so far, it’s become apparent that I don’t know how to punctuate around an em dash. And that I miscounted the number of days that transpire between two significant plot points. And that I call one character different names in different chapters (Bill or Lee – pick one!).
This might sound like painful reading, but I love it. I am very, very picky about details and grammar, and I enjoy delving back into my book at that level. It’s great to have a copy editor who has the same (or greater) level of obsessiveness as I do. I also appreciate not looking like an idiot when the book comes out.
And if a book copy editor can keep a writer from looking stupid, that’s nothing compared with what a newspaper copy editor can do. Having a fictional character with two different names is one thing, but imagine spelling the name of the city’s mayor wrong. On the front page. Or mixing up the numbers of a phone hot line that the copy editors catch because they called it right before deadline and discovered it went to somebody’s Aunt Marge and not the animal shelter featured in the news story.
I don’t think I ever spelled the name of a politician in one of my cities wrong, but I did once spend an entire breaking police story writing that a priceless Aston Martin was stolen from an airplane hanger. Now, a “hangar” is where you park an airplane. A “hanger” is what you put a coat on. Thankfully, one of the best copy editors in the business caught it, and my front page story ran error-free.
Who can ask for a better friend than that?