After two years as a full-time e-book developer, I’m back on the print wagon—or, at least, one foot is—working for CN Times Books as (executive?) managing editor of print and digital production. CN Times is a wholly owned subsidiary of Beijing MediaTime Book Co., and about half of its staff members are Chinese, with several being located in Beijing.
So, here’s the partial answer to a question I’ve been wondering about:
Subject: Kindle Title [title] (ASIN:[ASIN]) has an available update
Greetings from Amazon.com.
We’re writing about your past Kindle purchase of [title] by [author]. The version you received contained some errors that have been corrected.
An updated version of [title] (ASIN:[ASIN]) is now available. It’s important to note that when we send you the updated version, you will no longer be able to view any highlights, bookmarks, and notes made in your current version and your furthest reading location will be lost.
If you wish to receive the updated version, please reply to this email with the word “Yes” in the first line of your response. Within 2 hours of receiving the e-mail any device that has the title currently downloaded will be updated automatically if the wireless is on.
You can find more information about Kindle related topics at our Kindle support site below.
We apologize for any inconvenience caused and thank you for your business with Amazon.
Customer Service Department
It’s a book I’ve already read, so I went to kindle.amazon.com to see if I had made any annotations. Turns out it’s one I’ve got multiple copies of (it was a freebie in all the major e-book stores for a while), so my markup’s on some other version. (If I’ve actually read an e-book, there is always markup; this is one of the biggest changes e-books have made to my reading habits.) I wrote back and said, “Yes.”
Got an e-mail from a fellow book designer this morning asking, “Do you have a blog post about marking up a MS for the designer/typesetter?” Um, I couldn’t remember; had to search my own blog to find out. I found I’d written two posts in which such issues come into play—
May I take your order? (September 30, 2006)—in which I show the sample pages I prepared to instruct a typesetter on a moderately complicated book design
How stylish are you? (January 19, 2008)—in which I listed and explained the most common style names I use when marking up or laying out a bookish document
But both of these posts are written from the designer’s desk, whereas my friend was, he later explained, looking for information that might help a fledgling editor (in this case, an editorial intern) understand how to mark up a manuscript. To which I said, “Um, hello, the Chicago Manual?” I know there’s some discussion of markup right there in the front, but I realized I hadn’t consulted that section in the 15th edition in years, and I hadn’t yet checked it in the 16th edition at all. So I looked! And found that there is now a sizable chunk of appendix devoted to markup, with an eye toward producing multiple output formats—print, HTML, e-books, and more. That appendix is heavy going, though, and more theoretical than practical. How might a designer or production editor explain, in, say, under twenty minutes, how a clever intern should mark up a manuscript?
The word is douche bag. Douche space bag. People will insist that it’s one closed-up word—douchebag—but they are wrong. When you cite the dictionary as proof of the division, they will tell you that the entry refers to a product women use to clean themselves and not the guy who thinks it’s impressive to drop $300 on a bottle of vodka. You will calmly point out that, actually, the definition in Merriam-Webster is “an unattractive or offensive person” and not a reference to Summer’s Eve. They will then choose to ignore you and write it as one word anyway.
I know this because, during my three-plus years as a copy editor, I had this argument many, many times.
Me, I would have let “douchebag” stand—though I might have queried it, just as a formality. When Kristin Hersh tweeted re her forthcoming memoir, Rat Girl,
the poor copy editor at Penguin had to tell me that "apeshit" is not one word, but two
My stats page tells me that that nice Brian Winters has namechecked me again over at Metafilter. This time, it’s to Baethan, who wants to work in publishing. Her question was,
What sort of courses, experiences, certifications, degrees, etc. should I pursue to tailor me for a career in editorial publishing?
When I return to college in the spring, I’ll be a sophomore. I want to use the next three years to make me into a dream applicant for a job in editorial publishing- proofreading or copy editing. Random House’s example of an entry-level job, “Editorial Assistant“, sounds like what I plan to apply for.
I’d like to work in fiction, preferably fantasy, but I’m not too picky. I also have an interest in art history and some knowledge of music. I really like learning and I know from a high school chemistry class that working my way through technical papers is a lot of fun, so I probably wouldn’t mind a nonfiction editorial job. I don’t think I’d like to work for a magazine. I want to stay the heck away from newspaper jobs. Oh, freelancing is also something I’d rather not do for a living (though I suppose it would be good while I’m in college). I love cubicles.
What sort of resume would make me attractive to a publishing company? I’ll be attending one of Connecticut’s state schools (not UConn, probably) so any ideas on majors and classes would be welcome. (SCSU has Journalism and English as majors, so I’m thinking a combination of the two would suit.) I’ve also been looking for relevant distance learning courses, but haven’t had any luck. Money is not abundant, so I don’t want to end up going to grad school.
Finally, what can I learn at home that will be valuable in an editing job? I know my vocabulary could use improving. My knowledge of grammar is lacking- I never learned grammar, I just got a feel for what’s correct and incorrect through reading. Any good websites or books for this?
In short, I’m looking for all your knowledge regarding copy editing. I believe I’ve read all the pertinent MeFi questions, but please point me to any you feel I should pay particular attention to. (Er, to which I should pay particular attention?) Thanks!
French flaps: Extensions of the cover of a paperback that fold elegantly back inside the book and hold extra copy, in imitation of the flaps of the jacket of a hardcover book. Très chic.
. . .
Headbands: Adorable, colorful ribbons at the top and bottom of hardcover books. They are there to delight you.
. . .
Monograph: A scholarly tome on a single subject or limited aspect of a subject. Monographs were once bought primarily by libraries that used to have “standing orders” for all books on certain topics from specific presses. Those days are gone. Those days have been gone for a long time. Remember that when you are revising your dissertation.
. . .
Orphan: This refers to the first line of a paragraph left sitting by itself at the bottom of a page. “Widows” are the final line of a paragraph left alone at the top of a page. It’s the publisher who creates that kind of loneliness; it’s the publisher who should take care of it.
Some of it is specific to academic publishing, and much of it is, sadly, pretty straightforward, but you may find it of use when trying to explain certain phenomena to the uninitiated.
I just came across the lapsed bloglet Zimmer’s Words of the Week, which appears to have been abandoned some time in April. The archives are full of good stuff, though, much of it from the wonderful Erin‘s Weird and Wonderful books. Consider, for example,
a filling meal. From an Old French word glossed in the OED with a quote from Cotgrave as ‘any meat that (eaten greedily) fills the mouth, and makes the cheeks to swell; cheeke-puffing meat.’ (Weird & Wonderful Word of the Week, 2/21/08)
the pleasant smell that sometimes accompanies rain, especially the first rain after a period of warm dry weather. (Weird & Wonderful Word of the Week, 1/10/08)
a word that spells a different word when written backwards (“semordnilap” is “palindromes” spelled backwards). “Drawer” is a semordnilap, because backwards it spells reward. If this makes you uneasy, you might have aibohphobia, ‘fear of palindromes.’ (Weird & Wonderful Word of the Week, 4/10/08)
Q. I’m editing a textbook that references a play. Should it be “Act 3,” “act three,” or “act 3”? A solution to this mystery would be greatly appreciated. I’ve looked at CMOS a hundred times for help with this issue.
A. Wow—a hundred times? If you can suggest how we can make section 8.194 more clear, we’ll try to do better in the next edition: “Words denoting parts of long poems or acts and scenes of plays are usually lowercased, neither italicized nor enclosed in quotation marks . . . act 3, scene 2.”
Q. At the annual meeting of our local PBK chapter, dispute on the pronunciation of “archival” arose: whether the stress falls on the first or the second syllable. Give us your wisdom. I will pass it on in the column I write weekly in a local paper about any subject that pops into my head.
A. As a style guide for writers, CMOS must resist the temptation to weigh in on an issue of pronunciation. We are editors, absorbed in our manuscripts. We can go for days without even speaking. I suggest you consult the linguists who write dictionaries for this purpose. (I’m sorry this won’t give you anything to put in your column, but thanks for your help with mine.)
Q. Is it “cell phone” or “cel phone”? I am working on a crash deadline, and would appreciate a quick response. Thank you so much!
A. Any writer who has deadlines should also have a dictionary. I always swear I’m not going to look up words for people, but it’s like being a mom and picking up socks—something just makes me do it. It’s “cell phone.”
I feel doubly blessed to have the support and encouragement of Ava Wilder, head of production at Wiley who cares so much about all these details. And triply blessed to have Deborah Weiss Geline as the most amazing copy editor of all time.
Sing it, sister! Poorly copyedited cookbooks can waste not only trees and time, but also chocolate. [Shudder]