Daily Archives: March 22, 2008

Copyediting Commas

Just got through looking at the copyedit of Zoe’s Tale and generally it’s pretty good — the copyeditor has indeed saved me from making an ass of myself on a grammatical level, which is what copyeditors are supposed to do. That said, as I was going through the copyedit I was reminded that apparently the way I use commas, and the way copyeditors use commas, are two completely different things, because I spent a whole lot of time going through and writing STET where my copyeditor either added or subtracted commas.

There are two reasons for this, as far as I can see:

1. As a former newspaperman, I firmly believe that the serial comma is an abomination before humanity and must be eradicated unless it’s absolutely required to avoid ambiguity;

2. I frequently use commas (or remove commas) to set the pace for a sentence.

Since the serial comma is inexplicably the law of the land in book publishing, this means lots of serial commas put in which I then have to take out; since the copyeditor is not always aware I’m using commas (or the lack thereof) for pacing, this means the copyeditor putting (or taking) out commas based on strict grammatical rules. Which again I need to go back and STET.

This is not me blaming the copyeditor, incidentally — the copyeditor’s job is to use the publishing house’s style guide and to correct what he or she sees as grammatical errors. And on my end, there are a several places where the copyeditor changed the comma usage and I’ve felt the change was beneficial. It’s useful for me to have a copyeditor go, “no, no, you need to put a comma here,” so I can say “no, really I don’t,” or, alternately, “hmmm, I guess you’re right.”

That said, I think next time I’ll just ask Tor to stop asking its copyeditors to put in the serial comma during the copyedit. Because the serial comma, it is evil. Evil!