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The Subversive Copy Editor: Advice from Chicago (or, How to Negotiate Good Relationships with Your Writers, Your Colleag [Paperback]

Carol Fisher Saller
4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
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Book Description

March 16 2009 0226734250 978-0226734255

Each year writers and editors submit over three thousand grammar and style questions to the Q&A page atThe Chicago Manual of Style Online. Some are arcane, some simply hilarious—and one editor, Carol Fisher Saller, reads every single one of them. All too often she notes a classic author-editor standoff, wherein both parties refuse to compromise on the "rights" and "wrongs" of prose styling: "This author is giving me a fit." "I wish that I could just DEMAND the use of the serial comma at all times." "My author wants his preface to come at the end of the book. This just seems ridiculous to me. I mean, it’s not apost-face."

InThe Subversive Copy Editor, Saller casts aside this adversarial view and suggests new strategies for keeping the peace. Emphasizing habits of carefulness, transparency, and flexibility, she shows copy editors how to build an environment of trust and cooperation. One chapter takes on the difficult author; another speaks to writers themselves. Throughout, the focus is on serving the reader, even if it means breaking "rules" along the way. Saller’s own foibles and misadventures provide ample material: "I mess up all the time," she confesses. "It’s how I know things."

Writers, Saller acknowledges, are only half the challenge, as copy editors can also make trouble for themselves. (Does any other book have an index entry that says "terrorists.Seecopy editors"?) The book includes helpful sections on e-mail etiquette, work-flow management, prioritizing, and organizing computer files. One chapter even addresses the special concerns of freelance editors.

Saller’s emphasis on negotiation and flexibility will surprise many copy editors who have absorbed, along with the dos and don’ts of their stylebooks, an attitude that their way is the right way. In encouraging copy editors to banish their ignorance and disorganization, insecurities and compulsions, the Chicago Q&A presents itself as a kind of alter ego to the comparatively staidManual of Style. InThe Subversive Copy Editor, Saller continues her mission with audacity and good humor.

 


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The Subversive Copy Editor: Advice from Chicago (or, How to Negotiate Good Relationships with Your Writers, Your Colleag + The Copyeditor's Handbook: A Guide for Book Publishing and Corporate Communications + The Chicago Manual of Style
Price For All Three: CDN$ 88.74


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Review

“An insider’s book to cure writers . . . while shoring up editors. . . . Good advice.”

(William Safire New York Times 2009-04-28)

“One of the great virtues of this book (which has been very well copy-edited) is the many helpful examples of exchanges and situations Saller uses to illustrate her points. Many are real—and some, incidentally, very funny.”

(TLS "In Brief" 2009-05-29)

“Carol Fisher Saller . . . knows editing is as much about people as paragraphs, and that mastering diplomacy is as important as mastering stylebooks.”
(American Copy Editors Society)

“A little insider baseball . . . What may be the best copy editor’s companion since the CMS, the AP Style Guide and that dog-eared xerox of copy editing marks you keep tacked up on the cubicle wall. . . . 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”

(Publishers Weekly Online 2009-05-04)

“In this slim volume, Saller not only presents the sometimes muddy art of copyediting in a clear, matter-of-fact way; she has a lot of fun doing it. . . . The Subversive Copyeditor is a wonderful read for anyone involved in copyediting and an especially good ‘welcome’ gift for the many enthusiastic—and regrettably underpaid—interns now entering the publishing field.”

(Publishing Research Quarterly 2009-04-11)

“Carol Fisher Saller has hit this one out of the ballpark. Ms. Saller is knowledgeable and funny, her advice practical and relevant, and the book she has written is above all readable. So readable, in fact, that when I received a set of uncorrected page proofs for review, I could not put them down. . . . It was exhilarating, as if I’d been to a revival meeting where Ms. Saller was the preacher and I was the amen corner.”

(Wendalyn Nichols Copyediting 2009-01-29)

About the Author

Carol Fisher Salleris a senior manuscript editor at the University of Chicago Press and the editor ofTheChicago Manual of Style Online’s Q&A.


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Customer Reviews

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Most helpful customer reviews
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The social smarts in editing Sept. 18 2012
By Brian Griffith TOP 500 REVIEWER
Format:Paperback
Looking beyond the printed page, Saller offers her experience dealing with the people issues, the organizational problems, the priority setting or the negotiating skills needed to stay sane in an editing career. In general, she's a force for greater social and emotional intelligence in the field.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
Format:Paperback
Helpful advice through the author's personal experience as a professional editor. Rather than "preach" to her reader, Carol Saller informs through examples, many of which are humerous.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Amazon.com: 4.7 out of 5 stars  37 reviews
64 of 65 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Teach Yourself the Craft of Editing June 2 2009
By C. J. Singh - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
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Reviewed by C.J.Singh

While teaching courses in editing at UC Berkeley extension, I always assigned The Chicago Manual of Style and Richard Lanham's Revising Prose (5th Edition) for the introductory course. For the advanced course, we studied Joseph Williams's Style: Lessons in Clarity and Grace (ninth edition) . As noted in my detailed reviews of the two latter books, most students found them excellent. I'm sure they'd be just as enthusiastic about "The Subversive Editor" by Carol Fisher Saller. In fact, I'd place this book near the top of the reading list for anyone interested in learning how to edit. Saller, a senior mansucript editor at the University of Chicago Press, also edits "The Chicago Manual of Style Online's Q&A." Written with charming wit, her brief book presents numerous tips. For several samples from the book, please read on.

Introducing her book, Saller writes: "Although people outside the Press address us `Dear style goddesses' and assume we are experts on everything in the `Manual,' most of the time I feel more like the pathetic little person behind the curtain in `The Wizard of Oz.' It's only because I'm surrounded and protected by knowledgeable and generous coworkers that I can assemble the authoritative front that appears in the Q&A" (p. xi).

From the Q&A: "Q/ Oh, English-language gurus, is it ever proper to put a question mark and an exclamation mark at the end of a sentence in formal writing?" (p. 31). "A/ In formal writing, we allow a question mark and an exclamation only in the event that the author was being physically assaulted while writing. Otherwise, no" (p. 43).

On serial commas: "A/ Well, if you don't allow the serial comma at all, you will be stuck with situations like the following hypothetical dedication page that our managing editor likes to cite: 'With gratitude to my parents, Mother Teresa and the pope'" (p. 70).

Know Thy Word Processor: "Q/ Is there an accepted practice for use of emoticons that include an opening or closing parenthesis as the final token within a set of parentheses?" (p. 71). "A/ Until academic standards decline enough to accommodate the use of emoticons. I'm afraid CMOS is unlikely to treat their styling . . . But I kind of like that double-chin effect" (p. 79). Included in the above chapter is a footnote: "Hilary Powers has written a gem of a guide, 'Making Word Work for You: An Editor's Intro to a Tool of the Trade.' You can download it inexpensively at...." (p. 72). I did. Thanks.

On Associated Press Stylebook: "Minimizing word count must be another goal for newspapers: have you noticed their avoidance of 'that' even when it's needed? 'They maintained the house for years was a haven for crackheads.' It drives me crazy" (p. 28).

Saller's use of "subversive" in the title is a bit of a teaser. And she knows it: "Editor's first loyalty is to the audience of the work you're editing: that is, the reader. . . . Common sense tells us that working on behalf of the reader is not really a terribly subversive move" (p. 4).

To learn the basics of the editing craft, I recommend: reading Constance Hale's "Sin and Syntax" for a review of grmmar basics; doing the exercises in a self-teaching book such as Amy Einsohn's "The Copyeditor's Handbook"; and, perusing regularly "The Chicago Manual of Style Online's Q&A," edited by Saller. -- C J Singh
21 of 23 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars It's like finding out your mother smokes! Nov. 2 2009
By Patricia E. Boyd - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
Editors 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-deprecatory humor had me laughing out loud. Editors, writers, students, and businesspeople who handle any sort of communications will enjoy this book.
21 of 23 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Witty, humane, real-world advice April 20 2009
By L. F. Chapman - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
I'm a manuscript editor at a university press and I can't say enough good things about this book. I've long enjoyed Ms. Saller's clever answers in the Q&A section on the Chicago Manual of Style website, so I was predisposed to think well of her, but this book just cemented my respect and admiration. Her advice to editors (and to writers) ranges, for me, from the "I can't believe I never thought of that" variety to the "I have thought of that, but could never have said it so well" variety. This book should be required reading for anybody who is in the business of transforming unpolished words in a manuscript into type on a page.
6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars THE SUBVERSIVE COPY EDITOR by Carol Fisher Saller Sept. 16 2011
By thepaxdomini - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
The Subversive Copy Editor: Advice from Chicago is a 2009 book on editing by Carol Fisher Saller, a senior manuscript editor at the University of Chicago Press. The book's subtitle is "How to Negotiate Good Relationships with Your Writers, Your Colleagues, and Yourself," and this is Saller's primary focus.

The Subversive Copy Editor is divided into two sections: one on dealing with the writer and working on behalf of the reader, and the other on working with colleagues. Saller's advice, generally, is to take a common-sense and courteous approach to dealing with anyone and everyone. Her insight into the dynamics of the copy editor's working relationships is probably the most valuable part of the book.

Much of the book seems geared toward new editors, and there's a lot of basic, getting-started information here. On the whole, though, it isn't very subversive - unless remaining calm and not killing yourself stressing out over minutiae is subversive.

Saller's writing style is light and clever, and it makes this book generally enjoyable to read. Saller is also quick to discuss her own mistakes, which certainly helps the reader relate. Even if much of what she has to say isn't profound, it's nice to hear it from somebody who's experienced and credible.

This is quite a short book, but the pace feels a little too leisurely at times, particularly as Saller seems to try to hit a number of disparate targets. Not everything in the book is for every copy editor, and few if any editors will find every chapter relevant or helpful. That said, though, most any editor can get something out of this book.

There's nothing particularly groundbreaking here, but if you're looking for an easy, common-sense book on copy editing, The Subversive Copy Editor is a winner.
6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Stet Sept. 7 2009
By Christian Schlect - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
While written for the narrow orbit of copy editors and those who might desire such a career, this book deserves a wider readership.

Authors, language mavens, newsletter writers, corporate communicators, to those who simply want general good advice on handling co-worker business interactions at any type of office--all these and more would profit from Carol Fisher Saller's advice.

Practical, good humored, well written, and nicely proofed. (The jacket design by Isaac Tobin is nicely done, as well.)
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