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New York TimesAn insider’s book to cure writers . . . while shoring up editors. . . . Good advice.”
— William Safire
— William Safire
— Wendalyn Nichols
Longtime editor of the Chicago Manual of Style Online's deft, humorous Q&A page, Saller writes with wisdom and a great generosity of spirit in this singular survival guide to the copy editor's trade. Addressing issues essential to these professional perfectionists, who can easily develop compulsive or inflexible practices, Saller's improbably fun text also makes a cagey introduction to the field. Framing each chapter with a choice Q&A from her column (Q: "Is it ever proper to put a question mark and an exclamation mark at the end of a sentence in formal writing?"), Saller offers thorough advice on common obstacles, like an adversarial writer-editor relationship, or a seemingly endless task. Tried, somewhat obvious solutions-cultivating positive work habits, examining your motives, organizing your priorities-are thoughtfully re-established for overworked, under-appreciated editors. Practical considerations include the minefield of e-mail etiquette, understanding version control, maintaining transparency and the indispensability of back-up copies. With entire chapters devoted to the freelancer and the writer, and an extensive guide for further reading, this is an ideal complement to any style guide: practical, relentlessly supportive and full of ed-head laughs (A: "Only in the the event that the author was being physically assaulted while writing").
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
— John E. McIntyre
“Serving the reader by working cooperatively with the writer? Sometimes throwing ‘the rules’ out the window? Clearing the decks of pet peeves, mythical prohibitions and intractability? That is subversive. And welcome.”
— Craig Lancaster
— Alan Moores
— Tom Frisbee
— Jennifer Balderama
— Stephanie Deming
— Gary Hernandez
— Sarah C. Lange
— Robert Loerzel
— Stephen K. Donovan
— Barbara Rixstine
Q. I’m just starting out as a copy editor. I’ve read the style manuals, but can you suggest a book that will give me a sense of what’s important and put my job in perspective?
A. Happily, yes. In The Subversive Copy Editor you will find chatty, sensible advice from the guru behind the Chicago Style Q&A. Carol Fisher Saller’s well-reasoned plea for carefulness, transparency, and flexibility will keep both on-staff and freelance editors on the right path.
—Jenya Weinreb, Managing Editor, Yale University Press
— Pamela Toler
“An insider’s book to cure writers . . . while shoring up editors. . . . Good advice.”
“A wonderfully concise yet nuanced guide for the working (or would-be-working) copy editor. . . . [Saller] wears her experience well, urging flexibility, transparency, and tact—along with, obviously, consistency and reason—in working with authors and their copy.”
“It’s no surprise that the droll and (seemingly) all-knowing wizard behind the Chicago Style Q&A puts it all together—entertainingly—for manuscript editors in this real-world guide to job success and survival. The surprise is how urgent it is for every author, client, and boss who works with editors to embrace Carol Fisher Saller’s ‘subversiveness’—or suffer the next outcome from hell.”
“Carol Fisher Saller is the mentor that every copyeditor dreams of: wise, smart, shrewd, gracious, generous, and self-deprecating. Her advice on how to manage your deadlines, your computer files and e-mail, your relations with authors and colleagues, and your editorial compulsions, fears, and superstitions will add years (long, happy, productive years) to your life.”
“An entertaining trip even for those who never plan to lift a red pen or use the editing feature of a word-processing program.”
“Saller writes with equal parts of experience and heart. . . . Whether you are a casual editor, a teacher, a student, or a communications professional, you likely should read this book, if not for the concise fount of wisdom it is, then at least for a knowing chuckle or two. You’ll laugh, you’ll cry, you’ll take notes.”
“The Subversive Copy Editor—what a great title! That alone was enough to make me pick up a copy right away. . . .
The advice it contains is solid and pertinent, and I suspect it could be quite an eye-opener—possibly even life-changing—for some working editors. Saller’s humor is infectious, and helps her to make points effectively, so that even experienced editors happy with their working relationships will enjoy the read, as well as possibly picking up some useful suggestions and tips and gaining some beneficial insights.”
— Jim Foti
Pt. 1 Working With the Writer, for the Reader 1
1 The Subversive Copy Editor 3
2 The Good Launch 13
3 Working for the Reader,through the Writer: Carefulness, Transparency, Flexibility 23
4 When Things Get Tough: The Difficult Author 31
5 Dear Writers: A Chapter of Your Own 43
Pt. 2 Working With Your Colleagues and With Yourself 55
6 When Things Get Tough (the Sequel): The Dangerous Manuscript 59
7 Know Thy Word Processor 71
8 The Living Deadline 81
9 That Damned Village: Managing Work Relationships 91
10 The Freelancer's Quandaries 103
11 The Zen of Copyediting 111
App You Still Want to Be a Copy Editor? Breaking In 117
Further Reading 123
Posted May 23, 2009
Editors can break rules! How liberating! Carol Fisher Saller's "Subversive Copy Editor" confirms what I learned as a scientist: The more you know about a subject, the less dogmatic your opinions. Rules can be broken; editors do make stupid mistakes. Saller brings great common sense and, yes, sharp business acumen to her profession. The book reminds you that if an author--consistently--has styled his 985 references in a totally nonstandard, but logical style, what's the point in undoing all the painstaking work? Having enjoyed this "Chicago Manual of Style" editor's online Q&A page for years, I loved reading more about the crazy questions she gets about editing (and sometimes other topics, like fashion, when someone mistook "The Chicago Manual of Style" for a fashion advice book) and the clearheaded, sometimes funny answer she gives. But beyond her approach to editing and her invaluable hints on how to stay organized as an editor, the book includes invaluable lessons in modern business etiquette: ways to work with difficult co-workers and authors, the importance of answering e-mail promptly, even if you don't know the answer; how to defer a decision; the importance of keeping the big picture (in this field, the big picture is the reader and book sales); rules of etiquette not only in your own e-mails but especially with how you handle others' messages; and so on. The book can be read from front to back, almost like a novel (well, I am an editor, so perhaps I found it especially compelling), and Saller's self-depracatory humor had me laughing out loud. Editors, writers, students, and businesspeople who handle any sort of communications will enjoy this book.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.