Thursday, August 4, 2011

Hey! Why Did You Change That?

by Nancy Swanson, Editor and Production Coordinator

As we send edits back and forth, sometimes I’ll get a question from an author asking me about a change I’ve made in editing. What the author has written may be perfectly good in many respects but not be acceptable according to our particular style guidelines. If your hero is wearing a tee shirt, for instance, we will say no, he’s wearing a T-shirt. Your heroine’s dress may plunge in a vee neckline, but he has a T-shirt.
Every publishing house has its own set of rules for the formatting and style of its products. Here at The Wild Rose Press we have CMOS (Chicago Manual of Style) as our primary standard. Then we add a few idiosyncrasies of our own.

For instance, if you are a British author we let you keep your spelling but require the punctuation follow U.S. rules, including periods and commas inside quotation marks, generally, with those quotation marks double rather than single. We like commas in sentences using direct address, too: “Oh, John, are you leaving?”
Like all rules, they have their exceptions. The one British spelling we won’t let you keep, and won’t let anyone else use, either, is “alright.” “Alright” is simply not all right. We are positive-minded people and we love “all right.” Things may be already altogether lovely, but they’re not alright, even if you can find the word in the dictionary—they’re all right.

Would you rather say it’s OK? We sympathize, but we’ll ask you to make that “okay” despite the origin of the word.

For some word changes, you might check the dictionary for the correct or preferred spelling for the meaning you want. A mantle, for instance, is usually a cloak or covering, while what’s over a fireplace is usually a mantel, instead. Other spellings and usages are regionally influenced or might depend on the context. If your characters are in the Wild West and a grizzled, tobacco-spitting old codger is in the scene, he’s not going to talk like the dapper Easterner who just blew into town, for instance.

What you don’t have to worry about...
  • Too many spaces between words – we have an easy fix for that when we format the galley proof.
  • Whether dashes are the right size – as long as you have two hyphens, an n-dash, or an m-dash wherever you want a dash, we will take care of that, too.
  • Underlining vs. italics – we can accept either one, but with underlining the editor will have to change each to italics during editing.
  • What type font to use – or any other formatting details. We will make sure everything is in order for publication, and you will see it before it goes out.

One more thing to consider...
Your editor sends you a galley file to proof and you see large gaps between words in some lines. What’s this? Can we fix it?

It’s caused by the necessary formatting for production. You can fix it by rewriting those sentences to include more and/or smaller words in the affected lines. When the manuscript is justified, so you have straight margins on each side, the spaces between lines have to make the words stretch from one side to the other. Several long words together mean the spacing has to be more conspicuous. We applaud your excellent vocabulary skills, but “all things in moderation” is a good maxim.

To wrap up...
Never be afraid to ask questions – we welcome them; it’s how you learn – but sometimes the answer is going to be something as simple as “that’s how we do it here” and you’ll have to be ready to accept that. 


Karyn Good said...

Thanks for the great explanation. I'm a new author to TWRP and will be receiving edits soon. Oops! I see I'll be switching to using all right instead of alright. Maybe it's a Canadian thing, too!

Jannine Gallant said...

You forgot my personal favorite, blond guys vs. blonde girls. Thank heavens for search and replace!!

Joyce Henderson said...

Hum. If I read it somewhere I'd forgotten that you use the Chicago Manual of Style. Thanks for pointing that out

Jennifer Ann Coffeen said...

Great advice Nan! This will be very helpful with my next edits.

Kelly McCrady said...

Also House style is for no spaces before or after ellipsis points, with the exception of a line resulting in wonky justified spacing, where a single space added in may be just the trick to fix it happens. Chapter headings, both how they're presented and on what line, are also governed by TWRP House style.

Good column, Nan. Keep up the awesome work on galleys!

Word verification word: cuffall. as in, "I'll cuffall the authors who don't want to conform to house style!"