Adult Points

Third Sister’s daughter, aka The Kid, is in her first year of college. Yesterday she texted me, “Do you ever feel like a fake adult?”

“Once a day on a good day,” I texted in return. I thought about The Kid’s question all day.

When do I feel most like an adult? There was the cold, restrained feeling waiting to go in front of my town’s board of appeals to approve a variance for our garage (they refused). Selling or buying a house carries a lot of adult points.

Working at home comes with a lot of negative adult points. Wearing pajamas until noon does not promote adulthood. Although running the dishwasher by 8 am seems to have a couple positive adult points.

Seeing my work in print has positive adult points, as does standing in front of a class teaching. Writing cover letters is a pretty grown-up thing to do. As is invoicing.

It seems like being an adult is correlated with boring bureaucratic matters. Not necessarily. Sitting on the couch with DP and realizing that we’ve had a real relationship for 10 years is pretty adult. (Eyebrow waggle at other connotations of the word “adult.”) Even if we’re watching silly TV.

Going on vacation, renting a car, and staying in a new city seems to come with a good number of adult points. Visiting my friends and hanging out with their kid seems pretty adult too.

Do you folks worry about this?

Educating Myself

How do you teach a class that uses pop culture as material when you are a privileged white woman whose knowledge of pop culture is mostly limited to Agents of SHIELD and Orphan Black? I like to blame my parents for my life-long ignorance of popular culture. But I’d like to credit them too.

Their ban on Saturday morning cartoons and soap operas, the facts that my father’s capacity for learning new songs ended in 1946 (some kind of brain injury?) and that my mother listened solely to classical music, and my father’s hatred of movies all culminated in my having very good faking skills when people are talking about things I don’t know much about.

I mean you don’t want to appear ignorant in elementary school when the conversation turns to Jaba the Hutt (probably spelled that wrong [blame the parents]), right? All you need to know is that he is very fat and a villain. Done and done.

I’m perfectly capable of parroting technical language back to my authors. “AU: When you say ‘the tensile strength of the crystal construction of cyborg cybernetic cinnabars’ do you mean ‘crystalline construction’ as used on p. 6?” So I have been searching for key words, hip-hop feminism, etc., while my musical taste runs mainly to alt country.

I can pick out a scholarly article on pure faking it and then listen to some music. It’ll be good for me! And every time my kids talk about some person I should know and shouldn’t, I can turn to google. Or my nephew, who ran a hip hop show. (We may be white, but some of us are cool. [Management would like to reassure readers that Indy knows she is not the cool one.])

What are you teaching yourself these days?

The Freelancer and the Long-Term Relationship

I had no idea what the ebb and flow of freelance work would be when I began this process five years ago. I had promise of steady work from one source, but I’m a little paranoid and I had no idea how long that would last.

The first year, another client kept offering me work when I needed it (Thanks, Louis, you saved my life). I worked less and less for the other client, and eventually I was laid off. I panicked. But it was actually a good thing.

It made me go out and get more jobs. You see, I had gotten complacent. (Also the year before I had gotten married, bought a house, and my mother died, not in that order. I wasn’t really thinking about my work.)

But I got one low-paying but good client, which lead me to a higher-paying and good client, and that client and I have been together for over a year.

I like the work, and I like that the editorial staff keeps me in the loop. They talk me through the production workflow so I understand where I am rather than working in a vacuum. It turns out that the scariest thing about being a freelancer is that when you get no feedback from your clients, it could be because they thought you were the worst copyeditor ever, or that you were awesome, they just went out of business. Or something in between. And you sit at home and worry that you’ll never work again.

I have developed good email relationships with my three main contacts. That and I have three main contacts. I talk about horses (which I know nothing about) with the editorial coordinator and the finer points of [journal redacted] style with the editorial reviewer.

I went through an I-can’t-edit-worth-a-damn patch a few weeks ago and my editorial coordinator and I talked through my own process. The style guide is obtuse, and so I often rely on my (faulty) memory instead of looking through the style guide. I vowed to improve my ways. Every time I think about how ridiculous it is that I am an ADD copyeditor, I remind myself that I am also a creative, flexible copyeditor.

What are your strengths and weaknesses? How do you deal with radio silence?

Men who sleep with men who sleep with writers

One of the many things I like to carry on about is the topic of bisexuality. One of the great debates about the implications of Shakespeare’s sonnets (because half are written about a tortuous relationship with a woman and the other to a beloved younger man) is the shocking question: Is Shakespeare gay?

Nope. He (or rather his poetic persona) is bisexual. Bisexual merely means that a person is attracted to members of the same and the opposite sex. Let’s make this more personal. You have mostly dated women, but once you had an intense relationship with a man in college. Maybe you didn’t even sleep with him but had a long friendship rife with homoerotic overtones. Maybe you would have slept with him if he had asked, but he never did. Congratulations, you’re bisexual! Now you don’t have to tell anyone about the man from college. You don’t have to march in gay pride parades (but why wouldn’t you? they are kind of fun). But you can’t deny the fact that, in your little heart of erotic hearts, you are bisexual.

Now let’s talk about writers. Here’s a test. Do you write? Congratulations, you’re a writer! Why is it so hard for people to call themselves writers? If you engage in putting words down on the page then you are a writer. Musicians deal with this better, I think. I played a lovely alto stringed instrument growing up. I wasn’t that good, but I wasn’t that bad either. I played in college as well. I call myself an amateur musician.

So claim your damn self and stop worrying so much about what it all means. You can write without being published; you can be a writer if you hate everything you produce. You can be a writer if you read your shit aloud to your cat. And you’re especially a writer if you can get the fuck off the internet and write.

What do you claim and what do you deny?

A Submitting Author’s Guide to Copyediting

And, no, google, as usual, this post isn’t going to be as interesting as you think it’s going to be.

Dear Independent Clause,

In light of today’s post, I was wondering whether there are any page-turner copy editor reference books you recommend. As an author hoping to send a manuscript next week, I feel I ought to know.




Dear Author,

Congratulations! Sometimes you have to kiss the baby and let it go. (That might be a mixed metaphor, sorry.)

You don’t need to have a perfectly copyedited piece to submit to a journal. First of all it would put me and my friends out of business. Second of all, unless you’re submitting to the Journal of Snobby English Majors, your peer reviewers aren’t going to notice that you missed a period on page 32. And even if they did notice it, they are not going to reject your manuscript just because of one typo.

That said, you have to make sure that your manuscript has no embarrassing typos. Make sure you’re sending the final version. And for fuck’s sake, correct any misspelled words. Follow all their tricky little format requirements. It’ll keep the production staff happier, if nothing else. However, if you are at a point where you’re considering copyediting, you probably know all of these things.

Maybe you want to brush up on your grammar. My favorite grammar page turner is Woe is I by Patricia O’Connor. Let’s not forget Sister Bernadette’s Barking Dog for a further in-depth look about why grammar is the way it is. If you’re worried about your charts first look at charts in the journal to which you are submitting. Or you can look at the man, Edward Tufte, himself.

Here’s what you can expect when you are copyedited: There will be a certain number of changes that are inevitable. Your journal will change small things to conform with house style. For example if you’re an American submitting to a British journal, there is a good chance that all your colors will be colours and your labor parties will organise.

Any change that seems extreme to the copyeditor, who tends to be paranoid and conservative (about changing things on the page, not necessarily about politics), will be called out in a query. The copyeditor will seem stiff and polite because he or she doesn’t want to offend, but your copyeditor likely has a good sense of humor, but she will shout you down about serial commas if necessary.

In short, dear Author, don’t worry. It will be less painful than a dentist appointment and less offensive than the commercials during a football game.

Good luck.

Indy Clause

Official List of Latin Mumbo Jumbo, I Mean, Scholarly Abbreviations

Dear Independent Clause,

There used to be this great webpage (hosted on compuserve; spill a few keyboards for our fallen homies) that explained the difference and proper usage of viz, i.e., and e.g.
And it had this great usage example that used all three in a single sentence. I can’t recall precisely what their example was, but it something like:
“Many modern operating systems (e.g., Microsoft Windows, Mac OS X, Linux) include a file browser application (i.e. a graphical way of seeing what files are on your system), though some newer architectures (viz. ahierarchical file systems) don’t have mainstream support.”
My question is: I can never remember which ones need periods, and when they should have trailing commas after them. Also, did I even use them right in my example?
Yours sincerely,
Quid Pro Quo
Dear Quid Pro Quo,
In my pre-copyeditor days I also struggled with such issues. But I’ve seen the big orange light of Chicago (Manual of Style)—except now the light is light blue—er, anyway, yes, let me help you out with that. (Although I’ll be damned if I use your example sentence. I am a former English major, you know.)
  • e.g., for example (use periods and comma)
  • i.e., that is (use periods and comma)
  • viz., namely (use one period and a comma)
  • cf. compare (one period and no comma, fool!)
  • et al. and all (one period and no comma, fool! Unless, of course, you’re using APA, in which case it’s et al., year)
  • ibid. in the same place (or same as above) (one period and no comma, fool!)
When writing something (e.g., an article for publication), try to use scholarly abbreviations correctly (i.e., with all the correct periods and commas) in order to make yourself seem smart, sophisticated, and eminently publishable (cf. all the students you TA) to the people (viz., reviewers) who will be reading your work.
Anyone else have questions that have been keeping them up nights? independentclause (at) gmail (dot) com. And sorry about the ridiculous spacing. WordPress and I are having a minor disagreement.

Modifiers aren’t the only things dangling here

Dear Independent Clause,

When faced with the challenge of leading a sentence with a dependent clause, I’m often hesitant. Contemplating the delicate nature of maintaining proper agreement between clauses, I take extra special care to do mine right. Some people don’t.

Here, for your perusal, is a quote from a leading journal in the field of faux post-secondary curriculum, BY THE EDITOR OF SAID LEADING JOURNAL.

Rather than constituting nudity-related objections to coed nude underwater basket-weaving, I presume that these critiques implicate a constellation of analyses that have not been sufficiently well-accomplished.

I, for one, am glad this editor does not constitute nudity-related objections to coed nude underwater basket-weaving. It’s a lousy way to live one’s life. Constituting things, I mean. Especially objections of the nudity-related kind

Also, I barely scraped by grokking that it’s the analyses that have not been sufficiently well-accomplished. This round has once again been won by passive voice.

Impatiently parsing garbled text and other dependent clauses, your faithful subordinate servant,

Careful Clause

Dear Careful Clause,

Your hesitancy is well-placed. Who knows what the editor of the Journal of Faux Post-Secondary Curriculum was smoking when she wrote this. It was not the essence of correct grammar, that is for sure. I commend you on doing some of the great work of editing; that is, addressing the dangling modifier. And the copyeditor of said journal should be made to bring me coffee twice a morning for a week.

Yours in solidarity,

Independent Clause

Indecent Indexicals

Dear Independent Clause,

I’m looking over a book with tons of indexicals and pronouns that lack antecedents. Why must this blatant abuse of language make the baby Strunk cry? I offer a sample, and never mind the technical details:

People find DSLs valuable because a well-designed DSL can be much easier to program with than a traditional library. This improves programmer productivity, which is always valuable. In particular it may also improve communication with domain experts, which is an important tool for tackling one of the hardest problems in software development. CSS is an excellent example of this, most people who program CSS don’t consider themselves to be programming. Despite this, however, I don’t generally think that end-users will usually write in DSLs directly – it’s the communication enhancement that’s important.

My question is: what should I do when I see this train wreck masquerading as the English language? Since I’m not a copywriter or editor, I feel powerless.


Miffed in Maryland

Dear Miffed,

I feel your pain. What you can do is constrained by your position toward the writing. If you are a lowly student, you can only bide your time. Possibly you could tell your professor and win some brownie points; but his boyfriend might have written it and then your professor would fail you out of spite.

If you are a professional equal to the author, then you could send her a nicely worded note indicating that you loved all her conclusions but wished that she could express it better. Offer to edit her work in exchange for other services (there’s no way I can write that without sounding dirty). This can also backfire. My father was a scientist and used to point out flaws in his colleague’s research. His intent was to improve their work, but he made few friends in his department.

If there is no material way to respond to the author you have a few options. Grit your teeth until they fall out. Take up running. Take up drinking. Start an anonymous blog. Let it go. But above all, Miffed in Maryland, write better than they do.

Yours in solidarity,

Independent Clause