No Holiday for Maverick Editors

Before I go any further with this, I have to say one thing. I did not knowingly pattern that blog title after “No Time for Sergeants,” starring the late Andy Griffith. My brain did it of its own volition. Blame the brain.

Now then, on to my holiday rant. It’s a holiday rant because, while maverick editors don’t get holidays, I’m not combing teh intarwebz as I normally would because it’s a holiday for most other folks and I don’t want to do that much work (I’m trying to show solidarity, ok?). I want to rant. I don’t want to work. It’s too hot to work, but that’s perfect for ranting. And babbling semi-coherently. Lucky you, readers.

I’ll take these things in the order in which they occurred to me, which is in no way significant. Not at all. It just happens to be the order in which they occurred to me, nothing more.

“Center-parted bun.” Why was I even looking at a style-oriented site? I don’t remember—it probably had something to do with another page I was vaguely interested in, and I clicked on a link. Anyway, about this “center-parted bun.” I know what it means. The hair is parted in the center, and gathered into a bun. The problem is: Buns don’t have parts. They’re buns. This bothers me far more than it probably should, but I’m admitting my issue publicly.

“Foreward.” I could barely make myself type that. It’s not even a word, let alone something that should ever see the light of day in a book (digital or otherwise) or on a website. The portion of a book is a foreword. The direction in which one can move is forward. (I will dutifully remove the “s” from the end of that, along with those tacked onto “backward” and “toward,” whenever they appear in a file I’m editing. You have been warned.)

And while I’m on the subject (sideways, I admit): Does a book really need a foreword, a prologue, AND an introduction? Really? Does it? Surely there’s a better way to organize a novel than by these conventions. I don’t have the answer handy, but I can tell you that seeing all of these things before I even get to Chapter 1 isn’t a big turn-on for me.

Hyphens. When they’re missing, I notice. Especially when they’re missing from adjectival constructions like “85-foot boat” or “four-year-old child.” Even if you can’t afford a real, live, breathing copy editor or proofreader, a grammar checker should flag these. If it doesn’t, it’s even worse than I would’ve thought. Do yourself a favor and make sure they’re used when they should be. I don’t think any print-on-demand service charges by the character, right? Hyphens won’t cost extra, but their omission will cost you plenty in the eyes of readers who care.

Possessives. I know part of the problem here goes back to our school days. We had hammered into our brains the “rule” about “never form a possessive plural by adding apostrophe-s.” Well—most of the time. And worse, we overgeneralized it until we stopped using apostrophe-s in places where we should, like “Jesus’s” or “Pythagoras’s.” The Joneses’ house has a really nice back yard. Apostrophe after the plural form, no additional s. Cool. But Mrs. Jones’s car has a flat tire. Yes, the name ends in s, but it’s just Mrs. Jones—so you need to add the apostrophe-s for the proper possessive.

My brain is full of grammar so there’s no room left for algebra. I just figured that out. Now I can explain it better when people ask me. Bonus!