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The Subversive Copy Editor, Second Edition: Advice from Chicago

4.18  ·  Rating details ·  1,272 ratings  ·  199 reviews
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
Kindle Edition, 208 pages
Published April 18th 2016 by University of Chicago Press (first published March 2009)
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Jul 23, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Copy editing: don't go crazy, in every sense of the phrase.
Jun 10, 2010 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is a fun and witty book -- however, for anyone with significant editorial experience, it's probably less copy editing guide and more pep talk. Unfortunately, after reading it, I discovered that I couldn't point to many specific tips or tools I gained along the way. (I had a stack of stickies with me at all times while reading and had planned to put them on any page with great insights I could apply at work. I used two.)

Now if you're looking for a fellow editor with whom you can share a few
Rachel Taylor
Apr 26, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Loved it. Lots of great advice for editors who need to learn to tame their inner OCD tendencies, as well as justification and advice for dealing with problems that editors face on a regular basis. It was funny, informative, and useful. Definitely a keeper for me! I can't wait to get my own copy to mark up and underline!
Aug 25, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I don't think it's an exaggeration to say that The Subversive Copy Editor is essential reading for anyone who works as an editor, either in-house for a publishing company or other organisation, or as a freelancer. As most editors will know, the mechanics of editing is often only a fraction of what's required of you in the job, with the added complications of deadlines, accurate record keeping, and navigating difficult relationships with authors occupying the rest of your time. Carol Fisher Salle ...more
Jun 04, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I never imagined I would read this book the way I read a trashy novel in summer: quickly and raptly. This certainly has something to do with the fact that the topic is so closely tied to the work I do and Saller manages to impart many bits of new knowledge and insights I will immediately apply. But it is more than that. It is her witty and conversational tone that captivated me. (She must also have had an excellent editor.)

I highly recommend this for any editor - from the substantive and stylist
Jan 06, 2019 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I thought the book was interesting and some good advice, although it's less relevant to the editing that I do. The book is focused more on book editing, so I'd be curious to know what someone from that part of the editing field got out of it.
Shayla Raquel
Jul 05, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I'm so frustrated that I didn't read this book back when I first started in the editing world. Carol hits hard on all the things we go through as copyeditors, and for that, I'm grateful for such an advocate.

My favorite topics:

1. Working for the Reader, through the Writer — I cannot amen this enough. You aren't really working for the author. Think about it. You're working for the reader. It's your job to keep the reader happy.

2. Know Thy Word Processor — Seriously, folks. This thing needs to wo
Jan 13, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Jennifer S, Helen A
Shelves: non-fiction, 2015
This was the required textbook for the first course in my Editing program. And it's a really good book, with lots of great information about copyediting practices, particularly the interpersonal ones. Editors are a supportive, helpful bunch who share a "we're here to help" ethos. The more I learn about editors and editing, the more I understand how widely misunderstood the profession and its practitioners are. This book is both entertaining narrative and source of practical information and strat ...more
Mar 05, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Written with humor and insight, The Subversive Copy Editor really renewed my faith in what copyediting is supposed to be, and what it isn't. There is no such thing as a perfect manuscript. Copy Editors don't make it perfect. That's not our service. Our service is to the reader and to uphold the author's intention when writing.

An excellent book. Some of it beyond my scope, since a lot of it is focused on onscreen editing, while my job is marking copy on printouts and then making the changes onscr
Julie Ehlers
May 03, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: publishing
This was a fun read, and some of the tales of bad/clueless writerly behavior recalled some of my own experiences over the years. While the advice herein is good for any editor to hear, I do think this book is a little more useful for people who are new to copyediting. However, those readers should be aware that not every publisher does things exactly as Saller's does, and also that the book is already a bit dated. A new edition wouldn't be a bad idea.
Mar 12, 2009 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: my-toolbox
This book was probably professionally the single most important book I have ever read, and I am not even technically a copy editor anymore. I'd suggest that you read this if you are in publishing, or, frankly, any other field where you must manage and/or work with other people to produce a timely, error-free, and universally agreeable endproduct.

Re-read in December 2009.
The most important message Saller has for copeditors, who can sometimes take ourselves too seriously (myself included), is to lighten up--it's just a book. This book contains humor and helpful advice, both for in-house copyeditors and those of us who freelance. I'm considering getting my own copy so I can reread it now and then. Definitely one I'd recommend to fellow editors.
Apr 23, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The title of this book turned me off at first but once I gave in and read it, I ended up recommending it to all of our editors at Eternal Press/Damnation Books. This book has practical advice for anyone who edits for a living or is considering it. There is also a chapter included which addresses authors about what to expect from an editor once their book is accepted for publication.
Aug 17, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
While I do much more structural editing than copyediting in my work, I found the insights transferable to almost every aspect of my professional relationships. And (very important) it was highly entertaining! I sailed right through it.
Zora O'Neill
Mar 04, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Just now getting around to reading this. Very sensible, and nice there's even a chapter for writers, advising them how best to work with their copy editors. Basic motto of book is "Lighten up," which is refreshing and rare in the world of copy editing.
Helen Heath
Mar 16, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is a really good companion book for those starting out in editing to sit alongside your reference books. It's full of practical advice that I wholeheartedly agree with. I wish it had been published when I was starting out. An excellent mentor in a book for students of publishing.
A practical, healthy guide.
Jun 16, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: handle-yo-biz
Q/ Can you tell how to became an editer?

A/ Probably not.
Stacey Kondla
Dec 17, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2017
I enjoyed this book more than I thought I would. It has a ton of advice and direction for fledgling copy editors, a chapter written towards authors who may not know what copy editors are good for, and solid general advice on business skills, communication and decorum. It is highly readable with a bit of humour and a worthwhile read for anyone in publishing.
Apr 19, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 4-stars, school
i'm not gonna do a Fun review of this one bc i read it for school and also it's like. a copyeditor's guide not smth focused on story. but i enjoyed this! the advice was genuinely helpful and i thought saller's voice was compelling and casual enough to pull me in but still informative and educated enough to be of use
Feb 22, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Advice for copy editors and those aspiring to be, written by the woman who supplies answers to the Chicago Manual of Style's Q&A portion of their website.  Warm and funny, this book gives a sense of the work of the copy editor, and was quite enjoyable reading. ...more
Antoinette Scully
I found this to be a handy guidebook for the budding copyeditor. It lagged a bit in the middle for me (mostly the stuff about working with others that felt like common knowledge) but overall, I enjoyed the wit and wisdom of Carol Saller. I noted some of the ideas that seemed like a no-brainer but appreciated how they could be worked into this manuscript model, like using folders on the computer or keeping track of logged hours. Although I'm not a copyeditor, this gave me a look into their work-l ...more
Sep 08, 2018 rated it really liked it
Using this in a course I'm teaching on copy editing. Definitely good advice for anyone interested in editing as a profession.
Natalie Silver
Jan 02, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A lovely and concise book about copy editing. A great read to remind myself that my freelance business is on track!
Feb 10, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is a short, entertaining, enlightening book about being a copy editor, as written by a very smart and with-it copy editor, Carol Fisher Saller. The "subversive" element mentioned in the title refers to Fisher Saller's belief that rules and conventions should be adhered to only to the extent that they serve the reader. In other words, she's not in favor of a slavish adherence to grammatical and stylistic rules (such as contorting a sentence into complete awkwardness just to avoid splitting a ...more
Jul 29, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Really fun, short book. Think, Bird by Bird but for copy editing.
M.E. Kinkade
Sep 21, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I picked up this book when I was first really starting editor's mouth would be the best out there.
I wasn't disappointed. Carol Fisher Saller, the editor of the Chicago Manual of Style monthly Q&A, offers a concise and helpful explanation of the foundational tenets of copy editing for copy editors and for writers, and best business practices for editors in publishing houses and as freelancers.
It's brief, and should have been a quick read, but my enthusiastic agreement with the text is actually what killed my motivation. In short, I was trained up in this method of copyediting, so I found nothing ' rel='nofollow'>
But I am very well aware that not everyone is as privileged to be taught that fundamentals of editing from experienced professionals who also happen to be professors, as I was. (Shout-out to Maggie and Jake at Mizzou!) For you, I say: Read this book!
Saller tackled the difficult task of talking about a fairly dry subject while making it accessible to folks who knew nothing as well as folks who know a lot. And kept it interesting.
There are t
Josh Lewis
Sep 03, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: writing
As a fledgling copy editor, I’ve encountered a handful of problems that extend beyond a manuscript riddled with grammatical and logical errors--logistics and relationships that surround the manuscript and can sometimes cause problems with its publication. Some of these come in the form of varying deadlines for projects of varying levels of importance; some in the form of negotiations over price of labor; and others in the form of difficult authors who seem like “stet” was their first word as a ...more
Mandy Jo
Sep 13, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This week’s headline? high-profile invisibility

Why this book? wait and see

Which book format? on the kindle

Primary reading environment? mexico-bound avion

Any preconceived notions? dry and boring

Identify most with? the first half

Three little words? “how deliciously subversive”

Goes well with? orange mocha frappuccino!

Recommend this to? other aspiring editors

I kind of have a rule that "homework" books don't count toward my reading record on this blog. None of the textbooks I've read over the past fe
Feb 04, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Many writers think when a content editor (development or line) is done with their manuscript, it’s ready to print! Not so fast. The next step is to get the manuscript to a copy editor. What does a copy editor do? Well, all the things your grandfather thinks an “editor” does: grammar, punctuation, spelling, fact-checking, consistency, trademark checking, reference confirming, and most importantly, style conforming. Confused yet?

If you want to know exactly what a copy editor does (and does not), a
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Carol Saller grew up in Peoria, Illinois, and as an adult moved around for some years before settling in Chicago. She is a contributing editor to The Chicago Manual of Style, and for many years was editor of its online Q&A, which led to her write The Subversive Copy Editor.

Eddie's War is her first novel for children. Set in rural Illinois during World War II, its collection of vignettes portrays a

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“There should be no crying in copyediting.” 15 likes
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