I pay the bills as a newspaper copy editor. This is an altogether different creature from a book editor. Those of us who punch daily deadlines are the short-order cooks of the publishing world; we read and edit reams of copy in a compressed window of time.
In many ways, the pressure-cooker aspects of the job lend themselves to the cultivation of pet peeves -- little word burrs under our saddle that we automatically change to something more palatable (to us, if to no one else). But copy editors aren't alone in this tendency. Anyone who spends time pushing words -- writers and editors -- ends up adopting some of these needy pets. It's all well and good until a few pets become an unmanageable zoo that detracts from the more important aspects of job.
Here, then, are some common peeves that often require too much care and feeding to be worthwhile:
Split infinitives: In the 1994 film Quiz Show, Charles Van Doren (played by Ralph Fiennes) rather pedantically points out that a TV show's question contains a split infinitive (an adverb between the "to" and the verb). Van Doren was wrong, and so was your uptight teacher, Miss Thistlebottom. Split infinitives are perfectly acceptable, and in many uses are preferable to the alternative. So split away. The Chicago Manual of Style would approve.
While we're splitting ...: Many editors inveigh against split verb phrases (e.g., "will eagerly await"). Such a stance tilts at windmills. Writers, trust your ear on this one: In general, the best place for an adverb is where it sounds best. The Grammar Girl says it's OK.
Ending a sentence with a preposition: If you can find a more elegant solution, by all means pursue it. But, please, don't perform painful grammatical gymnastics to avoid it. Winston Churchill, at least according to lore, has your back on this one.
I've stoked the fire. It's your turn to add fuel. What peeves do you hold close? Which ones do you want to let go?
|Craig Lancaster's first novel, 600 Hours of Edward, was a 2009 Montana Honor Book and is a finalist for a 2010 High Plains Book Award. His second, The Summer Son, will be released in January 2011 by AmazonEncore. He's also the owner and editor of Missouri Breaks Press, a boutique literary press in Billings, Mont., and offers editing, typesetting and design assistance. Learn more about him and his services at CraigLancaster.net.|