I Know What I Know

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Pedantry

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Once, many moons ago, when I used to gladly teach our MA-level research and documentation course, I got beaten up on in an ad hoc meeting because a few folks thought that what I was teaching them was pedantic nonsense.

Around this same time, one of my colleagues was having a good publication run and had the first of two books coming out, and we were in the office chatting about how the publication process was going. He explained that he had just gotten a draft back from the editor and he was expected to make a heap of changes (documentation, etc). He went on to vent that the publisher should have someone in the office in charge of this.

I chuckled to myself because I knew that that’s always a myth, and because that’s what I’d been trying to get across to my MA students: you have to know this stuff, because in the end, you’re the one who will be asked to do all of this.

This all came to mind this week as I get into the manuscript preparation process. Along with my acceptance letter, I received a one-page document explaining what I needed to do to get the mss ready for them: no italics, no bold. Only underline. A space on either side of an em dash. That kind of thing.

The em dash thing was easy enough: find and replace solved that problem.

But I was not looking forward to the italics into underline thing. A 35-page long essay has a lot of italics in it, and this probably has one or two instances per page. Manually converting all of this was going to be real pain, and would take at least an hour.

I write using a word processor called Nisus Writer Pro. I’ve been a beta tester for them for ages now and I’ve gotten chummy with the lead engineer who writes most of the code. I sent him a heap of email asking for help with a few things, then made my way over to the discussion forum where I asked if anyone knew how to make the program find all instances of italics and convert them into underlining.

Turns out it takes about 5 seconds. It took longer to get my jaw up off the floor.

I spent this week printing out a draft a day and poring over it with a highlighter, finding little instances of randomly underlined spaces (the result of my being sloppy about when I told it to stop italicizing), attending to random typos, and generally looking for horribly miniscule errors.

Pedantic stuff.

The electronic version of it went out today. I’ll mail the hard copy tomorrow.

No word yet on the publication schedule. I assume that won’t be settled until the editors get out their pens and tear up my draft.

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Written by srogers

January 28, 2010 at 7:43 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

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