Adam Langer, journalist, author, playwright, and filmmaker, has a series of articles in The Book Standard under the general rubric “Enough About Me”; #8, “In Which the Author Hands in His Copyedited Manuscript and Pays Tribute to the Most Unheralded Job in Publishing,” contains a number of exchanges with six copy editors, members of a profession Mr. Langer rightly admires:
That’s the way it goes with copyeditors. They perform one of the most important jobs on manuscripts, saving authors from their misspellings, their grammatical errors, their logical and stylistic flaws, and yet, their efforts remain largely anonymous. As for me, I was always a terrible copyeditor. An attention-span problem, I guess. I’m still not sure if “copyeditor” is one word or two… [It’s two in Merriam-Webster—LH]
At any rate, I will take this opportunity to pay tribute to one of the most unheralded jobs in publishing by providing this conversation with five highly reputed copyeditors. Their remarks have been edited for continuity; hopefully, somebody else has copyedited them.
The five are Judit Z. Bodnar, Courtney Denney, Dorian Hastings, Steve Lamont, and Betsy Uhrig, and in a postscript he asks the same questions of Jude Grant. Some of the questions are a little silly (“What if you have to copyedit a book that you hate? Can you distance yourself?”), but the answers are usually enjoyable, and I loved the descriptions of each editor’s “weapons”—Ms. Bodnar’s for example, are:
Style manuals: Chicago, ALA, Words into Type, Recipes into Type. Dictionaries: Webster’s Unabridged, Biographical, and Geographical. Synonyms and Antonyms (not all that useful, sad to say). Several foreign dictionaries. Dorland’s Medical. Bartlett’s and other quotation sources, including biblical. Several editions of Roget’s. Several world atlases and a few road atlases. Complete Shakespeare and Milton, the King James Bible and Pruden’s Concordance, plots of the great operas, Oxford Companion to Ships and the Sea. A number of books each on when and how things were invented. A branch of NYC Public Library a couple of blocks away.