Walt Whitman on Copyeditors

What a tribe the tribe of proofreaders is! I think some men, some writers, owe a great part of their reputations to the excellence of their proofreaders–to their vigilance, their counsel. Who can do justice to the [a]cute, keen intellects of men of this stamp–their considerate patience, their far-seemingness?

Very few people know–very few readers of books–literary people–what we owe to proof-readers–the indefatigable proof-reader. I knew one–Henry Clark, a man not of extraordinary appearance–plain–but a man who seemed the deeper, more expansive, the more a fellow looked. He was a Boston man–the reader of the final proofs of the Boston edition [1860] of Leaves of Grass.

He is an important critter–the most important, I often think, in the making of a book. It easy enough to have good material–a plenty of everything–but to put all in its rightful place and order!–oh! that is another thing!
I have a great respect for the decided opinions of good printers, proofreaders–am disposed, every time, to yield to them. Long experience has taught me their wonderful [a]cuteness. Accent and all that is always a foggy latitude to me. I never feel certain of myself in it.

[proper citation forthcoming: love, the bad copyeditor]


11 responses to “Walt Whitman on Copyeditors

    • 2. Do you even have to ask?

      3a. Take a class. Even if you are editing-minded it will help you see the CE process, which makes editing a little more systematic. And you’ll learn proofreading marks, etc. There are correspondence courses available in the States, but see 3a(1).

      3a(1). Caveat: I have no idea what the differences are between British CE conventions and American or Canadian conventions (other the pesky “u”s, which you are used to; “s” instead of the all-American “z”; and the quotes/punctuation differences, etc.) This is pretty American-centric advice, I imagine.

      3b. Get some experience either at an internship, job, or as a volunteer.

      3c. Send out a thousand resumes and cover letters. Have no typos on them.

      3d. Join the Editorial Freelancing Association (or the Commonwealth equivalent), and one (or more) of the copyediting listservs.

      3e. Read these: https://fangsandclause.wordpress.com/2011/10/19/learning-to-be-a-copyeditor/
      and https://fangsandclause.wordpress.com/2011/02/07/so-you-wanna-be-a-copyeditor/

      Other advice anyone?

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