Tuesday, June 24, 2008

To stet or not to stet



One of the last entries on my list of "things I wish I'd majored in" is copyediting. It's a tough job, requiring intense attention to detail while not losing sight of the bigger picture.

I do a decent job of submitting a clean manuscript, I think, proofreading meticulously. But, in the end I count on the copyeditor to not fall asleep during the Check for Quotation Marks run-through.

For the most part, I OK every suggestion the copyeditor makes. Only rarely have I used my power of STET.

Here are three instances:

1. The protagonist of my first series is Italian-American from a working class family (read, her father was a laborer). She refers to her parents as "my mother" and "my father." One copyeditor early on in the series wanted to change all those references to "my mom" and "my dad." STET, I cried!

If Gloria (or I) had ever said "Mom" or "Dad," we would have been accused of "acting as if you're too good for Revere" and forced to make the Stations of the Cross for penance.

2. I made a reference in one of my periodic table mysteries to a famous (to physicists) 1935 paper by Einstein, Podolsky, and Rosen. In the margin, the copyeditor wrote: Was able to locate Einstein; cannot locate Podolsky or Rosen.

I couldn't help wondering how long it took her to locate Einstein.

3. On another occasion, I mentioned Gloria's favorite candy: See's chocolate-covered raisins. The copyeditor wrote in the margin: on their website, See's doesn't sell chocolate-covered raisins.

Now, I know my See's. I was ready to write a long post-it about how they may not sell them on the website, but they are featured in their stores. My husband, an engineer always ready with the most practical solution, said, "Why don't you just send him some?"

So I did – I sent one pound of See's chocolate-covered raisins to my copyeditor and one to my editor. I've been a favorite ever since.

What are your copyedit stories? Do you look forward to reading the red or blue marks? Do any of you readers wish you could make your own copyedit marks?

7 comments:

Monica Ferris said...

I do make my own copy-edit marks, when I get a notated manuscript. My most recent copy editor did such a magnificent job I sent her a bouquet of flowers -- but I still wrote "stet" on occasion in the margin. She sometimes would correct the grammar of my characters, and my characters often speak what is called "idiomatic" English. (So do I, most of the time.)

Anonymous said...

I love my cousin. STET xoxoxox

Terri Thayer said...

Just yesterday I got a copyedit asking me to change the phrase "shine me on" to something more common. She and several others in the office didn't know what it meant. I really wanted to keep it, because it means exactly what the character was saying - Don't ignore me. But in a much more succinct, elegant fashion.

What do you think - should it stay or go?

Camille Minichino said...

I must admit I thought that phrase had a different meaning ... I thought "don't shine me on" meant "don't lie to me" or "don't humor me" ... or "don't patronize me."
Wonder what I'm thinking of that sounds like that?

Kathryn Lilley said...

I love the deep discussions we have in the notes about the proper spellings and meanings of swear words. My thorough copyeditor always cites the references for corrections. Sometimes, however, I totally make up my own words or use them in an "off label" fashion by design, which I think creates extra work for the copyeditor, who searches in vain for a reference! I should mark those in my draft as a K-word, as in, "invented by Kathryn."

Linda O. Johnston said...

I'm a stickler for some of the old grammar rules, although I realize that some things have changed over time with usage. I've gritted my teeth when "for John and me" is changed to "for me and John," but depending on the context I'll often let it go. But I always stet a change from "John and I" to "I and John"! And sometimes a copyeditor just doesn't like my style, so I'm more generous with the stets then.
--Linda

beckylevine said...

Haven't yet had the "pleasure" of someone copyediting my fiction, but I do freelance as an editor, too, and I try to be very careful with the way I word my comments and suggestions. It's not my book, you know?

Still, I must be doing something wrong--nobody EVER sent me chocolate to prove a point! :)