In Praise of Copy Editing

Speaking of academic publishing, the reading group I participate in, Becoming Poor, is reading Bruno Latour’s Reassembling the Social.  It is obviously a significant book, published by Oxford University Press, which is of course no slouch.  And yet it is painfully clear that OUP did not pay to have a copy editor make sure the text was clean.  Latour is ESL, and he makes frequent colloquial slip-ups that any copy editor would have caught [e.g. his French habit of using the infinitive in place of the gerund: “This is one of the many cases where sociology has to accept to become more abstract” (p. 53)]  Not to mention frequent outright gaffes, such as

ANT’s solution is not to engage in polemics against sociologists of the social, but simply to multiply the occasions to quickly detect the contradiction in which they might have fallen into (p. 68).


On the other, it is a precious little institution to represent, or more exactly to re-represent–that is, to present again–the social to all its participants…(p. 139).

Embarrassing sentences like these are numerous, and they are exactly what a good copy editor saves you from.

I was reminded of copy editors’ value recently.  My college granted me a bit of money to pay an independent copy editor to scour my book and fix its problems.  She did a fabulous job, pointing out sentences like the ones above.  It turned out I was lucky to have had hired her, because my publisher (Wiley-Blackwell, who has otherwise been great) does not retain a copy editor to fix the texts they publish.  Obviously OUP does not either.

It’s not the end of the world, I guess.  But if I were Latour, I would have re-read the text, and then I would have pressed the publisher to hire a professional to re-reread it.

The professional I hired was fabulous.  Let me know if you would like her contact information.  She can help.


3 thoughts on “In Praise of Copy Editing

  1. Pingback: oDesk… Oh no! | LinguaThink

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