On Being a Self-Righteous Pig

Copyeditors are a strange mix of modesty and self-righteousness. You have to have the fire in the blood about rules and grammar and the proper way to do things, whether it is putting a comma in front of every “and” in a list or preferring to rip your eyeballs out rather than to use the serial comma. This leads to a certain amount of self-righteousness. After all, copyeditors are arbiters, if not of taste, then at least of word choice.

And yet a lot of copyeditors are modest. Their job is quiet and introverted and tends to draw people who can sit and not talk for eight hours a day. (My friends are still surprised that I’m a copyeditor, and most talky people who begin in copyediting move on to editing where you can, you know, actually interact with real people.) They tend not to push themselves forward and yet don’t fuck with them when the subjunctive is on the line.

But they (we) can also be smug and inflexible, and I fucking hate that. Rules are good, but only to a point. They don’t necessarily save lives, especially if they are grammatical rules. So this summer, take a deep breath. Get some context. Go eat a cheeseburger. Turn on the news. It’s OK if there is one instance of “heavy duty” as a modifier that isn’t hyphened in a manuscript. The world is not ending. Or if it is, it’s more likely because you drove to work than because of your error. No one will notice but us.

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3 responses to “On Being a Self-Righteous Pig

  1. Ah, balance and insight infiltrates the arcane back room of the continental copy editor. Far be it from me, writer and translater that I am to intrude with my view. Gentle ruminating leads me not to a cheese burger, heaven forfend, but to proffer an introvert’s advice to a garrulous rebel who proposes rule breaking should be limited to should be limited to holidays.
    That is all too corsetted a view. I can attest to robust survival after years of not fulminating upon witnessing the use of of where from is dictated, me where I rules and so on. Communication is clear, if clumsy.
    Of more concern is the real and immediate threat to the survival of linguistic diversity. The gerund is becoming an endarngered species.
    That is worth death by ditch lying.

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