Sometimes my work becomes a little too self-referential, such as when I am editing an essay on editing. One of the professors in my department calls this a “Meta” moment, an opportunity to distance ourselves from the task at hand to look at the theory (or broad picture, if the “t” word makes you cringe) behind the practice. The overlapping circles of which’s and that’s makes for a strange Wonderland of grammatological strategies and editorial choices. What happens if one layer adheres to the Chicago Manuel and another, the Oxford style? It’s enough to make me drag out my sentence-mapping guides to separate the independent and subordinate clauses.
I wonder what the editors of the Chicago handbook must feel when they are creating guidelines; is there a copy-editor for a copy-editing manual?
Speaking of Chicago—our journal recently purchased a copy of the newly revised 16th edition. I was tasked with sending a memo to our editors stating what I thought about it. I guess there are some political controversies associated with it? But everything in academia is political. So I dug in, hitting the internet citations first. I’m glad to see that we’re starting to move away from including access dates. A silly editing rule if there ever was one. What does it matter to know what date an author viewed a webpage unless we can invent time machines? Ridiculous.
I recently borrowed Self-Editing for Fiction Writers by Browne and King from the library. If you are a careful close-reader, you can get by without it. I tend to be annoyed by books that try to revise classic literature. I’m not saying Fitzgerald was perfect, but c’mon, leave The Great Gatsby alone. But the book is a useful reminder that copyediting can only get you so far. Can we really banish an entire part of speech from our writing? Maybe it’s the Romantic in me, but I tend to prefer writing that includes a bit of linguistic excess. An over-edited life is a life not worth writing.