A Little Copy Editor Humor for the Afternoon


haha i really hope that 4 is a subtle troll and not a mistake
Ah, but it depends on the paper's style. I'm a copy editor and my paper requires all numbers in headlines to be numerals, even numbers under 10 that start the headline. Drives me crazy. But it's the reason this one didn't bother me.
I'm laughing bitterly because my editors and I are fighting over whether Chicago is appropriate with no deviation for fiction or only for its original intended use, as a guide for scholarly nonfiction. A certain tension has developed over the use of ellipses.
The Oxford comma, one more reason I'm a fan of Chicago.
@2 even numbers under 10 that start the headline

That's incredibly retarded. I would think I'm reading a list and go "Where the fuck is 1-3?"
Damn it Minard, you set off my Vampire Weekend earworm.
I think they meant Copy Edit Her.
This is what David Foster Wallace referred to as "seamy underbelly of U.S. lexicography" back in 2001

Did you know that U.S. lexicography even had a seamy underbelly?

Refer to: http://instruct.westvalley.edu/lafave/DF…
for a hardly legible and heavily edited copy from the Harper's Archive. The whole essay "Authority and American Usage" is, counter-intuitively, great fun and can be found in the book Consider the Lobster.
A visual demonstration of why the serial comma is important:

@Everybody: This is my favorite Slog comment thread ever. I can't believe people are seriously debating style guides, talking about commas, and recommending DFW essays, all in less than 10 comments. Love you! (Also, I don't think the numeral is a style guide thing; they also capitalize "in" in the headline. Boo!)
Officially, we use AP at my place of business. Unofficially, Chicago decides the overwhelming majority of style questions, not least because the AP has virtually no guidelines to speak of. I mean, seriously. The AP's punctuation guide is 12 pages long.
I would use my context clues to determine that you were inviting strippers named JFK and Stalin. Because the actual JFK and Stalin are both dead, thus unlikely to attend your function.
Serial commas are dumb.
Two spaces forever! Never trust a font to do a typist's job!
@12 - How about this: "I had dinner with my wife's parents, Tom and Nancy." Is there enough context to reveal the writer is speaking of three people rather than simply revealing the parents' names?

And sure, they could rearrange the sentence to accommodate this weird insistence on not using a serial comma ever: e.g., "...with Tom, Nancy and my wife's parents," but not a without skewing relative emphasis on one guest over another.

That said, most forgoing of the serial comma results in no ambiguity. It's funny that everyone seems to be all-or-nothing on this issue, rather than - say - using the serial comma only when it removes ambiguity or helps to isolate a single item like "red beans and rice" from the rest of the list.
The problem with discussions of the serial comma, or any other single aspect of Chicago, is not entirely the guidelines in the book but also the slavish obedience to its dictates that often results in editors recasting sentences into entirely different meanings because they've constricted their own comprehension. I'm not the only one in my circle of friends who's encountered a copy editor who tried to eliminate all verbs conjugated with "was" because s/he thought it made the voice passive.
The Oxford comma eliminates ambiguity. Inasmuch as we endeavor to be explicitly understood, we should use it.
The AP actually considers it acceptable to use numerals below 10 in headlines, even at the start of headlines. See, for example, the AP website.
@14 - Yeah, I would likely reorder the sentence. There's no reason in my mind why my wife's parents need to necessarily be emphasized over Tom and Nancy.

But as you said, I and most fellow writers will use it to alleviate ambiguity—if needed. And it's needed less often than most people think.

I do however bristle at people who feel the absolute necessity to insert one. Worse, they'll usually use some sort of ridiculously-constructed sentence involving strippers and dead heads of state to try to prove their point.
@14 Agreed, serial comma only when needed for absolute clarity.
But I do have to point out that wife's parents (plural) plus Tom and Nancy (other people) is four, not three.
Yep, I'm a usage nerd and a math nerd. Pity me.