The Compulsive Copyeditor

July 1, 2009

Not To Be Cruel, But . . .

Filed under: language degenerating — amba12 @ 3:39 pm

. . . if you got a Twitter follow from someone advertising editing services, and these were among the tweets —

It is more likely to become injured while taking a shower or board a plane with a drunken pilot than snag a nationally syndicated column.

The loss of an article, or an entire book manuscript, can be devistating to a writer. To back uo your work for free, email it to yourself.

The best thing about rejection letters is to save them.Once they become inconsistent, you know you have a good manuscript.

— what would you do?  Shake your head sadly and muse on the blind leading the blind?  (Mind you, I’m not talking about the content.  And no, you don’t need to remind me that it is ridiculous to be copyediting tweets — I already told you, I can’t stop! — or that my own tweets doubtless would flunk such scrutiny.)  Saddest of all, most of this person’s potential clients probably no longer know the difference.  Even some young editors in publishing houses probably don’t.  Marketing is all.

My unsolicited advice to this person:  don’t call yourself an editor.  Market yourself as a coach.



  1. But think how fun it would be to board the plane with a drunken pilot~! Wait, do you copyedit comments, too? What is really sad is that I am in that group that is out here saying,”Okay, they sound goofy, but what exactly is wrong with those tweets?” Did they mix up their gerunds with their split infinitives? Inquiring minds want to know. Funny post…and very ironic.

    Comment by Kat — July 1, 2009 @ 4:05 pm | Reply

  2. *sigh* You’re going to make me humiliate myself by actually copyediting these tweets out loud, aren’t you. I’m Charlie with the wrenches. I copyedit everything. I just keep most of it to myself. Believe it or not.

    1) Most obviously, “devistated” should be spelled with an “a” between the “v” and the “s.” The etymology is related to “vast” and “waste” (so Newton Minow was being redundant when he called TV a “vast wasteland”?). “Etymology: Latin devastatus, past participle of devastare, from de- + vastare to lay waste” But hey, who cares about spelling anymore?

    2) “The best thing about rejection letters is to save them” does an abrupt about-face and goes off at 90 degrees to what you expect. (Or is an about-face always 180 degrees? The compulsive fact checker would have to look it up.) The sentence sets you up to expect something like “The best thing about rejection letters is that they toughen you up” or some such. “The best thing for rejection letters is to save them” would be the simplest fix. T.H. White once wrote, “The best thing for being sad is to learn something.”

    3) “It is more likely to become injured”: change that to “You are more likely to become injured,” just for starters. There’s more, but I’ll stop.

    Comment by amba12 — July 1, 2009 @ 4:25 pm | Reply

  3. Sigh. I thought it was going to be something more esoteric and technical. Well, the first tweet was funny. IT is more likely to become injured… It? Really? It? What is it? That is the one that would have sent me off to fact checking land. Could IT be a Roomba roaming around the house bumping into furniture? But then I guess a Roomba would not be boarding a plane with a drunken pilot. I am a medical transcriptionist and I love when people misuse or do not understand medical terms and words. “The doc told me to take Advil but all I have is ibuprofen.” Of course, doctors are funny about terms used in other specialties.

    Comment by Kat — July 1, 2009 @ 4:36 pm | Reply

  4. One of my sisters is a medical administrator, and she used to collect people’s translations — often Biblical — of their diagnoses: “Smiling Mighty Jesus” for spinal meningities, “Fireballs of the Eucharist” for fibroids of the uterus. She did not make these up.

    Comment by amba12 — July 1, 2009 @ 5:05 pm | Reply

  5. The one that bothers me occurs only (I think) in speech. Can you copyedit the spoken word? Even our President and your sister the medical administrator perpetrate this one: “The trouble is is that —” Why two is’s? Two is’s make an izzy, a fuzzy izzy. OK I’ll stop. Just listen a while and you will hear this double is ricocheting off your ears. Am I crazy or what?

    Comment by Mom — July 26, 2009 @ 5:00 pm | Reply

    • Can you copyedit the spoken word?? Is the Pope German? (*sigh* “Polish” sounded better.) What CAN”T you copyedit?

      Maybe Bill Clinton started it with “It depends on what the meaning of IS IS.”

      Seriously, someone pointed this out to me some YEARS ago and I’ve been hearing it with puzzlement ever since. I do not think I ever utter it. It’s as if “troubleis” (do people use it with other words? Do they say “the point is is?”) has become a unit in people’s brains, almost a word in itself. What’s strangest of all is that it’s proven so catching. I can imagine someone making that mistake, but how did there get to be an epidemic of it?

      Comment by amba12 — July 26, 2009 @ 5:10 pm | Reply

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