Jul 23, 2008

Another literary casualty


I finished my copy edits and my manuscript is off to the typesetter. Woo! Copy Editors correct punctuation and facts, and hopefully don't turn your literary elan into something you'd hope only to find in an IT training manual. Well, the copy editor did a great job. She didn't get slap-happy with the semicolons or correct sentence fragments when they were meant to be short. You know, short. Dramatic. For a reason. She fixed some of my bad punctuation. She caught an incomplete sentence I knew I had to correct, and she did a better job than I would have. She even caught a typo in my gibberish!! Yyyyou’re my one desire (pronounced dee-ZYE-YUHHz)! She spotted the errant z at the end of that. Good call!!

But. My publisher follows the Chicago Manual of Style. The CMS has some bizarre rules about compound words. Like, every instance of 'back yard' in my book was changed to 'backyard.' Even though both are acceptable in a dictionary, the CMS makes them one word. To me, backyard is an adjective. "backyard politics, backyard deals, etc. But according to CMS it's one word.

But what really baffled me were CMS rules on numerals. Just about every number is spelled out. Eight thousand. Seven hundred and seventy three. Two thirteenths. Or ages. So say you find a man who's 1,267 years old. Alright, no one would unless they were an archaeologist. So say my mom was 79 1/2 years old and 2% Danish. According to the CMS, I would have to write it as such: My seventy-seven-and-a-half-year-old mom is 2 percent Danish. Right. Spell out her age with words and hyphens, but use the numeral 2. Oh but not 2%. 2 percent. Those Chi-town editors are not Y2K compliant. But that's what my editors use, so I must be CMS-compliant. Oh well, we must all suffer for our art.

There was one literary nugget I was sad to lose. I had was describing my own fear of people who weren't like me. I had heard Stalin could only work in a study if it was built and furnished exactly the same as his study at home. SO the line went, "I heard Stalin was so paranoid that wherever he went, he had to have his study built and furnished exactly the same, down to the pencil cup. Was I doing that? Was I so paranoid that everyone had to believe exactly the same things I did?"

Neither my editor and copy editor couldn't find the fact to corroborate it. I did find it!! But it turns out that Stalin's replicated studies were all in the same dacha. He had, like, four studies in the same house, all built and furnished exactly alike. down to the eraser heads on the pencils in the pencil cup.

But it no longer worked, not if Stalin's identicaly studies were in the same dacha. It would have been one thing if his study in the Kremlin was exactly the same as his study in Odessa. Oh, the facts on the cutting room floor. But I had to agree with them. Even if they were only two percent right. Or was that 2% right? Oh forget it. They did a fantastic job.

Now I just hope they don't use Comic Sans for the typeface.

7 comments:

Bryan Allain said...

another milestone reached! hooray! can't wait to pre-order my copy. (or is it already available for pre-order)

Allen L. said...

New Jersey here:
Backyard is one word. Weirdly, Front Yard is two words. One would think since the rule would apply to both but Chicagoans are weird.

Meredith Rachel Munro said...

hahaha yes!!! just say NO to comic sans!

Ted and Lori said...

Oh those details are maddening. We should have done like the French and come up with a governmental ministry to oversee "correct" (official) grammar usage.

Steve said...

From the illiterate branch of the Exeter UHS English Department:
Back is a adjective, yard the noun in "back yard." Back modifies where the yard is located. What do we do with front porch?

Tom Wolfe would not survive at your publisher.
We are looking forward to you book and will overlook the CMS mistakes.

Maureen's SOH

Anonymous said...

Comic sans. I love comic sans.

But sans what, I wonder?

That, my friend, is a mystery.

Annina

Susan Isaacs said...

the sans was originally meant for 'sans serif.' but it's become a sans style, or sans moderation. Enough already!

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