The rage of the copyeditor

Before a book gets published by a mainstream publisher, your editor will send it to a copyeditor. His job is to go through the manuscript and highlight errors in grammar, consistency and spelling.

I’ve worked with quite a few copyeditors in my time, and it’s interesting to note how often they seem to get very angry.

Let’s say you’ve written a 300 page book on packaged goods, and 32 times in the manuscript you’ve spelled "Procter & Gamble" as "Proctor and Gamble." The computer-friendly thing to do is leave a note at the front that says, "please do a global search and replace and fix it". Instead, copyeditor convention requires that each one be marked.

The first few marks are normal. But then, after five or six or seven corrections, the ink gets a little darker. It’s almost as though the copyeditor is saying, "I’ve already corrected this SIX TIMES. WHY AREN’T YOU LISTENING??!"  By the end of the manuscript, the copyeditor’s monologue has gone on so long, the anger has turned into rage.

With that in mind, I show you two pictures.

NocardsHere’s the sign on a pub in Oxford. I imagine that at first there was a little sign that said, "no cards." But a few people tried to pay with cards anyway, so the sign got bigger. And then one or two people tried to pay with cards anyway. Eventually, it must have led to this.

Do you really think that yelling at his prospects is helping his business?

It’s not my fault that the 5,000 people before me asked if they could use a credit card. Don’t yell at me. Yell at them. Of course, they’re not here!

Has the number of people asking to use a credit card gone down since the owner added AT ALL?

If your goal is to attract and acquire new customers, yelling appears to be a silly strategy.

Compare this to a sign at the beautiful Museum of Natural History just down the street.