A short (no, really), pithy post about a comma

See that comma after the closed parenthesis in the title up there?

That’s where it belongs. This isn’t a style issue. It’s a mechanics rule in AmE. (I suspect it’s the same for BrE, but I couldn’t find an entry for it in my copy of the New Oxford Style Manual.)

I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve seen someone write a sentence with a parenthetical intrusion and put the comma before the opening parenthesis, like this:

I was walking with my mom the other day, (doctor’s orders, you know, after her surgery) and we saw blah blah blah.

It looks so odd, I stop dead every time. Think about it like this. You’re talking along to a friend, okay? And you interrupt yourself mid-thought to add something, but that thing you’re adding actually belongs to what you just said, not to what you’re about to say. It’s semantically and syntactically linked to what came before. In my example, the comment about doctor’s orders is linked to walking with Mom, not to whatever thing we saw.

That’s why the comma goes after the closing parenthesis of the intrusion. We keep the related thoughts — the main one and the related intrusion — together by putting the comma afterward. Of course, this is assuming you need a comma. I’m not going into the variations that don’t. This post is short (remember the title?), pithy, and about commas.

See? I just did it again in the last sentence of the previous paragraph. That’s how it’s done.

I failed an editing test.

Made you look, didn’t I?

It’s true. A couple of years ago, I took a technical editing test for someone who runs an editorial services company, of which many clients are suppliers to the government. The test comprised a spelling section and a practical section. The latter was a six-page proposal (I’m sure there’s a special term for it, but I’m not aware of what it would be) in a Word file. The instructions were to edit for prose flow, AmE idiom (not use of idioms, per se, but “natural” wording), and GUMmy stuff.

I took my best shot, and sent it off.  Continue reading “I failed an editing test.”

ACES 2017: The rest of it

Friday night, as I said last time, was the banquet. Because so many of us editor women have embraced colorful hair, there was a group photo taken before we were seated. Eleven of us assembled in front of the (old) ACES logo sign in the hallway for our moment of fame. The largest discussion focused on whether we should line up in ROYGBIV order. (We did not.) As most of us are purple of some flavor or other, we were in the middle, with the green, blue, orange, and ted on the outside. Molly McCowan (@InkbotEditor) has rainbow streaks in her blonde mane, and took center position. (I envy her ink.) Continue reading “ACES 2017: The rest of it”

Well, actually … (thoughts on an Oxford comma)

First, here’s a link to the story I’m about to discuss. Read that and come back when you’re finished. I’ll be here.

::goes to get coffee::

Ready? Okay. Here’s the thing. The court claims that without a comma before the coordinating conjunction “or,” the meaning of the wording is ambiguous.

I beg to differ. There’s absolutely no reason to put a comma there, and doing so doesn’t help clarify anything (because it doesn’t belong there in the first place). Continue reading “Well, actually … (thoughts on an Oxford comma)”

Time to re-evaluate myself.

And by “re-evaluate myself,” I mean “reconsider my editing rates.” I am not the editor I was in 2012, when I hung out my imaginary shingle and said “Hi, I’m an independent editor who wants to work with independent authors.”

I’ve edited nearly 70 titles since then. I’ve never stopped reading books on the art and craft of editing, and I’ve started reading books on the art and craft of writing because, surprise surprise, they help me be a better editor. I’ve continued reading for pleasure (not nearly as much as I wish I had time for!). I’ve taken a class in developmental editing: a beginning class, because I was very unsure of my skill set even though my clients all told me I was doing the work already.

They were right. Continue reading “Time to re-evaluate myself.”