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Sunday, April 24, 2005

Nitpickers Unite

Grumpy Bookman good as always, this time on copy editors.

Good comment by BB and I can't think of a better example than the Oxford comma (aka serial comma, also aka the *Harvard* comma, I heard somewhere) where the editorial blue pencil is more hotly disputed.

Actually, I've learned something here - that most folks *favor* it, dammit:

That's it then. I'll start using it more consistently.

Hear hear! While I have not had a book published, I have had some memorable run-ins with editors. A lot of companies have them now. I fondly recall debating the question of serial commas with a Microsoft editor. I insisted they were not needed; she said they were. She finally settled it to my satisfaction by saying, "If it [a serial comma] is ever needed for clarity, then it should always be used for consistency. Hard to argue with that.
Consistency is all! I used the Oxford comma sparingly before working in Hong Kong and then the US. I have now reached a position of utter inconsistency on the question, tending to err on the side of clarity.

Whereas I would never say "Red, white and blue", I do add a comma after 'and' in many cases - but it irks me each time. Patronising, I know, but constant harping on the length of my sentences has persuaded me of the need for 'speed bumps' in the form of punctuation to aid those who find it hard to carry more than a few words at a time.
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