blog, Books, copyediting, Uncategorized

What’s So Scary about Scare Quotes and Italics

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Welcome to the latest edition of “copyediting adventures!” I had the pleasure of editing a great book with some really interesting content. But there was one tiny flaw. Rather, it was a tiny flaw that turned into a big annoyance: the overuse of emphasis in the manuscript. There were scare quotes and italics everywhere. Multiple words were italicized in a sentence. Some times, one sentence had a combination of italics and quotation marks. There were even words that were italicized, quoted, and underlined simultaneously. This, my friends, is what we call overkill.

As a copyeditor, my job is to make the texts readable while respecting the voice of the writer. But in my experience, some writers don’t understand the power of their own voice. So they try to make the reader see that power. This is a mistake. The fact of your written words is already important enough. To say it another way, if the words are not already important, they should not be in your book.

Sure, writing is a process, and each word should be carefully chosen for clarity, comprehension, and impact. And of course, there are moments when some words need to be emphasized over others. However, if you use too much emphasis, you actually de-emphasize the entire sentence or paragraph.

Everything in the book is already important. But if a reader has to pay attention to every emphasized adverb, preposition, concept, or phrase, then readers will forget to pay attention to the big picture of the book.

So, this is my public service announcement: Too many scare quotes are scary. Excessive use of italics is irrational. Every word in the manuscript should be significant on its own. Just keep writing and let the reader decide their own experience.

—KRW

Books, Writing

What is Your Theme for 2019?

I have a theme for the year, something that I will work on as the year progresses. I decided on “love” as a theme. This may seem hokey, but I spend a lot of time alone and largely invisible to most people; however, I think about relations and relationships quite a bit, including the relationship that I have with myself.

So, my exploration of love means finding ways to love life and work even when I feel completely over it all. Finding ways to love people is, of course, at the top of the list, but also finding a way to love change, uncertainty, and weakness.

I have decided to do this by increasing my reading, or rather, changing what I read on a regular basis. As an English professor who primarily works in Cultural Studies and Critical Theory, most of my reading is historical, philosophical, and theoretical in nature. I rarely have time for fiction. Yet, I have a bookcase full of fiction books, so I have decided to give them my full attention.

Fiction can teach us a lot about love. Of course, experience is the best teacher, but I am more interested in how we conceive of love. How do we understand it, talk about it, or think about it?

And from love, especially self-love, what makes a relationship? From there, what makes a community, a region, a society, and so on. Books can be very instructive here.

My first book of choice: Thomas Moore’s Utopia. I have not finished it yet, but so far I can say that the man was a master of the dependent clause. His sentences are long, really long. However, the book is really short, about 80 or so pages. I will do a write up on it later.

Another thing I would like to do, specifically with this blog, is include poetry. Since my theme is love, I thought it would be fun to go on a love journey through poetry. I will post daily poems that make me think of love or demonstrate love in some way.

If you have any recommendations, send them my way!

-K

Books

Word of the Day: Bibliomaniac​

I was going through my books, and I found one that I purchased years ago called Forgotten English. I don’t think I ever actually read it. It was one of those “oh, I will buy this now and read it later” purchases and, well, we know how that goes. So years later—maybe a decade later?—I found this book on my shelf and oh, do I wish I had read it earlier. Language is such a beautiful thing, and reading through this book reminds me that language is living.

My interest in delving into the history of the English language has something to do with the fact that I am currently teaching myself Japanese. I’m using a battery of tools—Duolingo, Rosetta Stone, Living Language, and good ol’ fashioned textbooks—and when you start thinking about a language different from your own, it makes you consider how you use your native language. I’ve been thinking about language not at the level of the word but at the level of the sound.

Language is a collection of sounds that we put together, and we call these sounds “words.” That’s it. So, as I struggle through organizing my bookshelves, I realized that what I have there are collections of sounds, sounds that are familiar and safe. Is it then fair to say that reading is a function of the senses? I would say, yes, with the auditory senses leading the way. Of course, it is more nuanced and complicated, and I am leaving quite a bit out, but I have come to the realization that part of what draws me to books is the sound and, by extension, the feeling. Every sentence has a rhythm, and I am constantly looking to find that rhythm.

Or at least, this is the excuse I am using to explain why I have so many books. I am, indeed, a bibliomaniac, folks.

-K