Who really cares if there is an “and” between figure numbers or a comma? Is it hair splitting or hair-splitting? Why are ocean currents capitalized and other kinds of currents lowercased? Who gives a damn?
We do! Some people may think we’re just dried up pathetic spinsters who need to divorce their cats and get a life. But they’re wrong. First off, I fucking love my cats. Second off, we’re language quality control. We smooth out your stupid wording and we make sure things are clean, consistent, and professional.
But when is picky too picky? As a freelancer I bounce back and forth through half a dozen different house styles, requirements, and editing cultures. Some of my clients think any deviation from Chicago is a sin unto god, but other clients employ the mantra “Let’s do whatever is best for the readers, and let’s be consistent about it.”
I tend to side with the second view. While Chicago is usually right, sticking to it to the detriment of the text is unthinking fundamentalism. Copyediting, ultimately, is not a contest to see who knows the most rules. It is not perfection. It is a polishing and a service to readers. It’s about making a good (or lousy) piece of writing better.
We sand the surface to keep you from getting splinters.
Stop with the metaphors! So tell me, CE readers and others, why do you bother?