We recently had an interesting discussion at the Blood Red Pencil office -- yes, we do have an office, which is actually a list where we meet virtually (or is that virtually meet?) to discuss topics, scheduling, etc. And here you thought we just flew by the seat of our pants, didn't you?
Anyway, in this thread, we talked about the fact that some of the basic standards of editing that used to be the norm across the board of publishing - The Chicago Manual of Style - The AP Stylebook - the UPI Stylebook - and The Elements of Style by Strunk & White are no longer adhered to as strictly as they used to be.
The issue was raised about what happens when an independent editor makes manuscript changes and the author submits to a publishing house and the house editor comes back and makes conflicting editorial changes.
I noticed in the recent line-editing of my mystery, Open Season, which will be released by Five Star Cengage /Gale in December, that they are following the strict use of commas to offset phrases. The editor who worked on the book before I submitted it to Five Star did not. For example "… did little to brighten the place up but, hey, it was home."
The first editor took the first comma out and that put a stronger pause on "hey". The copy editor at Five Star put the comma back.
While that may be more grammatically correct, I prefer it the other way. Maybe because I'm an actress, so the delivery of lines is important, and I find that line awkward when said with two pauses.
Here at The Office, another question was raised. What if this editing conundrum happens with an author one of us has edited and that author comes back and complains that she paid for services NOT rendered?
Well, actually, services were rendered, and just because the second editor had a different approach to style doesn't negate what the first editor did. In the case of my book, I think my first editor gave me what I paid for even though the second editor took issue with comma usage. My first editor helped me strengthen characters, tighten the plot, and weed out unnecessary wordage, and I ended up with a better book. Comma usage or not.
Some people think that with so many independent publishers cropping up, the editing standards seem to be blurring even more. That may be true to a point. But I know from my experience with a few NY publishers that each house there had small variances in their style standards. Some used the Chicago manual, others the AP, and a few made me wonder what manual they used.
As authors and editors, I think the best approach is to recognize that nothing is cast in stone, especially not our work. The publishing houses have the last say in how books are edited and formatted, and we would save a lot of hair-pulling if we just let the little things go. That way we can fight for the big things that matter more in a story than where the comma is.
What has your experience been? How do you handle conflicting edits?
Posted by Maryann Miller, who has been on both sides of the editing table and appreciates a good editor. Visit Maryann's Web site for information about her editing services and her books. When she is not working, Maryann loves to play farmer on her little ranch in East Texas.