Serial comma offenders

The copy edits for LINESMAN came through and we’re currently working our way through them.

It’s official. We’re serial comma offenders.

The edited version was a sea of orange tracked changes. Our 400 page manuscript had 5,121 revisions. That’s right. 5,121.

It looks bad, but read on …
It looks bad, but read on …

Most of these are comma issues. In particular, no comma before the ‘and’ at the end of a list, and no comma before a ‘too’, especially at the end of a sentence. There were also some words we hyphenated that we shouldn’t, and some words we should have hyphenated but we didn’t. The other copy changes pale in significance to this.

It’s not quite as bad as it sounds, for the way the changes are tracked mean that if you add a comma (or remove one) the word is deleted and a new one added. So the actual number of changes is closer to 2,500 than to 5,000. That’s still a lot.

Our copy editor deserves a medal.

Medal for Sara, copy-editor queen, who added and removed close on 2,000 commas. We'll do better next time, we promise.
Medal for Sara, copy-editor queen, who added and removed close on 2,000 commas. We’ll do better next time, we promise.

Memo to Australian writers trying to break into the US market. The Chicago Manual of Style and many other US style guides use serial commas. (Australian standard is to use them only for clarity.) If your publisher uses, say, the Chicago Manual of Style, there is an option you can turn on in Word grammar checking that allows you to check for a comma before a last list item. You’re going to find it useful.

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