Copy Editors Today Have It Easy


By Neal Comment

Back when I was a young whippersnapper, when we still called all this fancypants online publishing “new media” (and liked it!), if we wanted to look something up in The Chicago Manual of Style, we had to pull our own hardbound copies down from our bookshelves, look up the subject of our query in the index, and then flip through the pages to find the answer. But now the University of Chicago Press is moving all that information onto the Internet, where for annual fees starting at $25, subscribers won’t have to lift their ass cheeks out of their chairs to find out if, say, it’s still acceptable to put parentheses around the area code in phone numbers. (It is, though more and more people these days are just using a hyphen—but Chicago has no opinion on using periods instead of hyphens, so if you want to be a hipster, you’re on your own.)

Thanks to this technological innovation, Chicago managing editor Anita Samen tells the NY Times, “you can consult [the manual] on the fly, so you are free to do your writing and editing without having to retain huge numbers of rules in your head.” In my day, keeping all those rules in our head made us better writers, and when we had to look something up, at the very least we cultivated some strength in our forearms doing it. Just think what a couple years of searchable online databases is going to do to these punk bloggers—pretty soon they won’t be able to lift their arms to sign the contracts on all those book deals they’re getting. Humbug, I say!