copyediting, proofreading, teaching, Writing

Proofreading and Copyediting Dilemma: The Art of Reading

I find myself in a bit of a dilemma, one that should be easily avoidable for someone like me. Copyediting and proofreading is a skill that is a combination of the art of reading and the art of writing. As a teacher, I spend a lot of time pouring over the details of my young writers’ work; I want them to be correct and creative. But first, I have to teach them to write. This, of course, requires a certain attention to grammar for the sake of readability.

A fundamental problem that happens with young writers is that they don’t understand the power of punctuation. There are either too many commas or no commas at all. And don’t even get me started on semi-colons; it’s too much to bear to think about. There are usually always periods, but usually after a long, rambling run-on sentence. Did I mention the commas?

Don’t get me wrong; I understand why the problem exists. My students are all writers in their own way, but social media writing does not translate well in any setting other than social media writing. And generally speaking, excellent grammar is not always the marker of a great writer (this is why copyeditors exist). Nevertheless, I have to hammer on the grammar to make the writings readable, then hammer on the art to make the writings creative.

Sometimes creativity necessitates the breaking of certain grammar rules. It’s a necessary sacrifice. One that I see all the time as a professional copyeditor and proofreader, and this is where my dilemma comes in.

Proofreading Code of Conduct

I had to do a proofreading job recently, and I was in full teacher mode because, well, there were dangling and misplaced modifiers every where. Every description of every place, person, or thing included a dangling modifier. Of course my instinct was to fix all of the dangling because in a sea of nouns, I couldn’t tell what was being modified.

I wanted to correct these dangly bits. But then I noticed that the color begin to drain from the text. That’s a problem. A book without a voice is a terrible thing. So, I contacted my editor to get some parameters, and she told me that some of those dangling bits are literary. And she was right. And so I let the modifiers dangle, cringing a little in the process.

This led me to reconsider the work of the proofreader versus the copy editor. Proofreaders generally check for grammar, mechanics, punctuation, and syntax. Copy editors check for some of those things plus accuracy, mechanics, consistency, organization, clarity, and more. In some of those sentences, I thought the meaning was confusing. However, this meant that a copy editor didn’t think so, and likely signed off on those sentences. If I were to proceed with too many changes, I would be overstepping my proofreader role.

So I deleted some of my suggestions, probably a bit too much. But the writer’s poetic style remained intact. I guess we can call that a win, and I had to remind myself about the limits of proofreading. Here is the capital-T-truth: while proofreading is less work, copyediting is much easier. Go figure.

Reading is Art

While I sit here stressing over whether I did an adequate job on the project, I am reminded of this simple principle: reading is art. Copyediting and proofreading are artistic endeavors that facilitate the reading experience, an experience that can rise to the level of art if the writing is good.

I have to remind my professional self that what I do in the class room can actually limit me as a copyeditor. I also have to remind myself to allow my students to be creative and not just correct. Sometimes, breaking the rules of grammar is necessary for the sake of capturing experience. Knowing when to do that—or better, when to allow that—is the major dilemma of copyediting and proofreading.

teaching, Uncategorized

Happy Halloween: It’s Job Market Season

Happy Halloween: It’s time to find that job! Isn’t this just great.

Unfortunately, it’s been some time since I’ve updated this blog. Fortunately, it’s because I have been extraordinarily busy with teaching, researching, writing, and, of course, copyediting!

Now I have entered the time of year where I have to do the job market dance. In academia, the job market is, well, it generally feels like an ongoing hazing ritual that may or may not end with a beneficial outcome (a positive outcome is too much to hope for). So we dance.

We work through the endless personal statements, teaching statements, research statements, curriculum vitae updates, evaluations, interviews, and more. My experience so far, after sending out upwards of 40 applications last year, is that while there are jobs, there is no money. One interviewer for a job I was offered, in a very expensive city, told me that I may have to get a second job to make ends meet. Yeah, I didn’t take that job.

Another job at another university had their funding pulled for new hires after they told me they would like to hire me. Fun times. Most I didn’t hear back from at all. I am not a fan of ghosting, and it is especially frustrating when you have to go through so much to apply and hear nothing back. Application packets in academia can be up to 10-15 pages long or more. It’s frustrating.

So I am, of course, considering the non-academic track because, well, I like to eat. And pay my bills. And save money. And get that oil change I so desperately need.

Witch of All Hallows Eve

Sometimes, I just want to wave a wand, do a little jig around a cauldron, and swoosh: Hello Dreams! I’ve been so eager to meet you! Where have you been? Too bad magic is not real.

But I’ve been thinking of ways to plan my job market strategy because, well, tis the season. In between Halloween candy and teaching statements, I have to find a way to maximize my time so that I can do an effective and efficient job search. Plus there is all the writing that I have to do (and the writing that I want to do, which is probably not appropriate for the academy).

This season I have been thinking about costumes, more specifically, personas. If you are the type do dress out, Halloween is all about trying on something different, exploring a side of yourself. Putting on the costumes and makeup is an aspect of the rigmarole you have to do for the job market, minus the fun. The strategy here is simple: put on the face and hope for a good outcome. Pablo Neruda said it best in his poem, “Parthenogensis”:

Well, I’ll try to change for the better:
greet them all circumspectly,
watch out for appearances, be dedicated, enthusiastic—
till I’m just what they ordered,
being and un-being at will,
till I’m totally otherwise.

And so we dance!

Figuring Things Out

Despite the web of crazy that is the job market, it is an interesting challenge because it really is about deciding not just who you want to be but also how you want to be for a period or maybe even for the rest of your life.

I know for sure what I want to be—a writer and copyeditor—but there is so much more to life than just work. That’s the other thing that Halloween represents—an opportunity to make the day something more than every other day.

Recently, a student came to me to say that his best friend was killed in a tragic auto accident. He said that he just could not bring himself to do any work at all. I understand that. This kid was 19 when he died. My student is also 19, and he said, crying at this point, that he has never had to deal with someone’s death before. He doesn’t know what to do. He kept asking me what is the correct thing to do.

It all got me thinking about Halloween and having fun and living life and personas. And I realized that my job plan has to be a life plan. Yet, life is unpredictable, so the best thing about Halloween is the energy, the spirit of fun that surrounds it. That has to be a part of the job market plan and the life plan too.

Happy Halloween, folks!