Sunday, March 22, 2009

Our Dirty Little Secret

Artists sign their paintings, many animals mark their territories, and people leave their marks in a variety of ways. So, too, do editors.

While we mostly work “anonymously”—that is, our name rarely appears on the work we edit—many editors leave behind a signature of sorts, to be shared with their brothers and sisters in arms in a sort of one-upmanship contest of creativity and stealth.

Here, from some of my partners in crime, are my ten favorites, along with a brief summary of the emotional basis of their mark.

P.I.: I insert an extra space between sentences in the middle of page 50. Breathing room.

O.O.: On page 69, I omit a serial comma as close to the middle of the page as possible. Page 96 is my backup page. Screw Harvard; I’m a Yalie.

L.A.: I use my current age to select the page on which I’ll replace an en dash with an em dash. I’ll subtract one page at a time, if necessary, to find a page on which to do this. I love M&Ms.

E.H.: I’ll insert an extra period in the tenth ellipsis. Who’s counting anyway.

Y.O.: If the work contains the names of congressional representatives, the district number of the ninth name is increased by one. They’re all tools anyway.

M.M.: The final occurrence of the possessive form of a name ending in s doesn’t get the final s after the apostrophe. What’s good enough for Jesus.

L.U.: In a scientific or technical work, I’ll change the treatment of data (singular vs. plural) at its last appearance in the final chapter. You say tomato, I say tomatoes.

J.Z.: The seventeenth quotation mark gets placed inside the closing punctuation. So sue me!

C.K.: In the bibliography, the first publisher with an ampersand in its name gets an “and” in its place. Ridiculous looking symbol.

B.R.: The third appearance of “III,” as in John Jones III, loses a generation, if you get my drift. Pompous asses!