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The Subversive Copy Editor, Second Edition

Advice from Chicago (or, How to Negotiate Good Relationships with Your Writers, Your Colleagues, and Yourself)

Second Edition

The Subversive Copy Editor, Second Edition

Advice from Chicago (or, How to Negotiate Good Relationships with Your Writers, Your Colleagues, and Yourself)

Second Edition

Longtime manuscript editor and Chicago Manual of Style guru Carol Fisher Saller has negotiated many a standoff between a writer and editor refusing to compromise on the “rights” and “wrongs” of prose styling. Saller realized that when these sides squared off, it was often the reader who lost. In her search for practical strategies for keeping the peace, The Subversive Copy Editor was born. Saller’s ideas struck a chord, and the little book with big advice quickly became a must-have reference for copy editors everywhere.

In this second edition, Saller adds new chapters, on the dangers of allegiance to outdated grammar and style rules and on ways to stay current in language and technology. She expands her advice for writers on formatting manuscripts for publication, on self-editing, and on how not to be “difficult.” Saller’s own gaffes provide firsthand (and sometimes humorous) examples of exactly what not to do. The revised content reflects today’s publishing practices while retaining the self-deprecating tone and sharp humor that helped make the first edition so popular. Saller maintains that through carefulness, transparency, and flexibility, editors can build trust and cooperation with writers.

The Subversive Copy Editor brings a refreshingly levelheaded approach to the classic battle between writers and editors. This sage advice will prove useful and entertaining to anyone charged with the sometimes perilous task of improving the writing of others.

Read the introduction (PDF format).
Carol Saller also blogs and tweets.

An audiobook version is available.

200 pages | 5 1/2 x 8 1/2 | © 2016

Chicago Guides to Writing, Editing, and Publishing

Library Science and Publishing: Publishing

Reference and Bibliography


“If you admired—even loved—the first Subversive Copy Editor, you will perforce admire and love the second edition.”

John McIntyre | Baltimore Sun

“With the book, (Saller) hopes to give copy editors ‘self-assurance and a measure of grace’ in negotiating words with the writers we are ‘charged with saving from themselves.’ It’s an invaluable work for aspiring copy editors, and a useful one for those more established. Writers—who all edit their own work, to a degree—will also find it illuminating. The Subversive Copy Editor is a wise, witty, and thoroughly helpful companion to the work of editing.”

Stan Carey | Sentence First

“The best book on editing I’ve ever read.”

Jonathon Owen | Arrant Pedantry

“Contains a multitude of pointers for anyone who deals with the written word. The triumvirate of carefulness, transparence, and flexibility is good advice for writers and editors of any level.”

Praise for the audiobook version | AudioFile

“This is the book Oprah would write if her vocation were saving writers from embarrassment, rather than saving the whole world. To which I say, finally. I’ve got dozens of books concerned with the nuts and bolts of copy-editing, but this is the only one that teaches the fine art of chilling out.”

Praise for the previous edition | Jennifer Balderama, New York Times

“May be the best copy editor’s companion since the CMS, the AP Style Guide and that dog-eared xerox of copy editing marks you keep tacked up on the cubicle wall. . . . This is an ideal complement to any style guide: practical, relentlessly supportive and full of ed-head laughs.”

Praise for the previous edition | Publishers Weekly

“One of the great virtues of this book (which has been very well copy-edited) is the many helpful examples of exchanges and situations Saller uses to illustrate her points. Many are real—and some, incidentally, very funny.”

Praise for the previous edition | Times Literary Supplement

“Saller is the mentor that every copyeditor dreams of: wise, smart, shrewd, gracious, generous, and self-deprecating.”

Praise for the previous edition | Amy Einsohn, author of The Copyeditor’s Handbook

Table of Contents

Preface to the Second Edition

Part One
Working with the Writer, for the Reader
1 The Subversive Copy Editor
2 The Good Launch
3 Working for the Reader, through the Writer: Carefulness, Transparency, Flexibility
4 When Things Get Tough: The Difficult Author
5 The Misguided Martyr; or, Laying Down Your Life for the Serial Comma
6 Dear Writers: A Chapter of Your Own

Part Two
Working with Your Colleagues and with Yourself
7 When Things Get Tough (the Sequel): The Dangerous Manuscript
8 Know Thy Word Processor
9 The Living Deadline
10 That Damned Village: Managing Work Relationships
11 The Freelancer’s Quandaries
12 Things We Haven’t Learned Yet: Keeping Up Professionally
13 The Zen of Copyediting
14 You Still Want to Be a Copy Editor? Breaking In

Further Reading

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