Friday, 16 September 2016

Jeff Seiler: Proofreading Jaka's Story

I have been proofreading Jaka’s Story since shortly after I finished proofreading Going Home, although I had actually begun proofreading it while I was proofreading Reads, if that makes any sense.

So, when I picked it back up, I had to go back over my prior proofs, while making the current corrections. I decided to divide the proofreading notes into two sections -- word balloons (which admittedly, might not make the remastered edition because of how much of a pain it would be to reformat the balloons) and text. I now have 87 pages to go and hope to finish by the end of this week -- on or about September 18.

I thought I might give you some insight into just how tedious the work can be by relating something that happened earlier this evening. There I was on page 384 of the phonebook (2nd printing), about to make the correction of “Hand-written” to “Handwritten”, and I had to count out what line it was on in the second paragraph. But, before I got down to line 19, on which the miscreant lay, I went back over “onion” on line 17 of paragraph 1 and “skin” on line 18 of paragraph 1 and it finally caught my eye. Looked it up in my handy-dandy American Heritage College Dictionary, Fourth Edition, and, sure enough, “onionskin” is one word, no hyphen. Except that, in the example above, where “onion” ends line 17 and “skin” begins line 18, there should be a hyphen after “onion” on line 17. Made the notation. Then made the same notation for “onion” ending line 2 of the second paragraph. Then made the notation for line 16 of paragraph 2, where “onion-skin” should be “onionskin”, since it’s all on one line.

And, then, I had to back to page 365, where the word first appears, and make the notation for changing “onion-skin” on line 14 of paragraph 2 to “onionskin”.

And, then it was time to make the notation for “Handwritten”.

Just a little insight for any of you who are interested in that sort of lonely, tedious work.

I actually LOVE doing it.

Yeah, I know. Weird.


Jack said...

Why do you place commas and periods outside of close quotes?

Jeff Seiler said...

Well, Jack, if you're asking specifically about this post ("onionskin". & "Handwritten".), then it's because I'm quoting those words from my corrections and those quotes are part of an overall larger sentence, thus necessitating the periods after the close-quote marks. Same thing goes for the commas that follow close-quote marks. Plus, in each instance of those words in the Jaka's Story text, they were not followed by periods. If they had been, then I would have written, in my post, "onionskin.". & "Handwritten.".

Now, if you're asking about why I would do that in correcting the text of Jaka's Story, then the answer gets more complicated and is on a case-by-case basis. I can't think of an example of that from JS offhand, but I can give you a related instance from Reads:

There is a passage in Reads where Victor is recounting having heard Oscar relate a story. The passage is lengthy and contains two voices, in a dialogue that is being quoted by Oscar. So, because it is being recounted by Victor, it required double quote marks as well as single quote marks. For me, in proofreading (or, copy-editing) it was quite difficult to get those double and single quote marks just right. (It had not been done right in the first place.) I think I went back over it three times before I thought I had it right.

Lo and behold, when I was flipping through my copy of the remastered Reads and came to that passage, I discovered that I had screwed up at least one instance of a double-quote mark and a single-quote mark side-by-side.


I will be getting into that example more in-depth when I do my essay about my "process" and decision-making in my proofreading.

Thanks for asking, Jack.

Jack said...

Jeff, I was talking about your posts here. Commas and periods always go inside of close quotes (in American English); it doesn't matter if you're quoting phrases that don't include commas or periods. Check your American Heritage College Dictionary.

Travis Pelkie said...

Well, isn't it more of a style thing, and not a dictionary thing? (As in, it would be in a style manual, like the Chicago one, or some other one.) Even if what Jeff's doing isn't "right", it looks "right" to me. Mostly.

Jack said...

I guess it's not in the American Heritage College Dictionary, Fourth Edition, which doesn't seem to have a punctuation section. But Webster' New World College Dictionary, The Chicago Manual of Style, The Associated Press Stylebook, The American Medical Association Manual of Style, and Strunk and White's The Elements of Style all say that commas and periods always go within close quotation marks. It's probably impossible to win an argument about grammar without sounding like a giant asshole, but I'm an editor and I'm right.

Jack said...

Goddamn it, "Webster's."

Jeff Seiler said...

Okay, Jack, I was in the middle of checking all of my sources (which were mostly inconclusive), when my friend called and said that he was ready to go out to dinner and to watch the Packers/Vikings game on tv. (The Vikings won in a nice, close game.)

My first search was in the American Heritage College Dictionary, Fourth Ed., which I assume is the same as yours. It actually does have a limited punctuation section, but what it says about periods and commas inside or outside of close-quote marks is inconclusive.

The American Heritage Dictionary, Fifth Edition, surprisingly(!), does not have a section on punctuation.

I know!

Then I consulted my 2012 edition of "The Brief Penguin Handbook", and it had nothing to offer to fit this debate.

Penultimately, I checked out my copy of McGraw Hill's "A Writer's Handbook", from 2003, which actually is very in-depth, and had something limited to offer.

To wit: It indicated in two examples that the period would go outside of "only a few words or phrases".

Still not quite sure, I debased myself by looking up the issue online.

There, I found a site that indicated, as did you, that "periods and commas always go inside [of] close-quote marks."

So, Jack, I'm not sure. This one will stick with me, I'm sure, to the end of my days. When I awaken, in a cold sweat, in the wee hours of the many (I'm sure) mornings to come, I will curse the name of Jack, The Editor. Repeatedly.

Way to throw a bone just outside of the old OCD copy-editor's cage!

Travis? Thank you, most sincerely.

Dave? If you would like for Jack to take over the proofreading/copy-editing role, just say the word.

Jack? I'm curious: For whom and what do you edit?

Jack said...

Jeff, I'm not familiar with A Writer's Handbook. All I can say is that if it calls for leaving periods outside of quotation marks that include only a few words or phrases, then it disagrees with the vast majority of style guides used by American (but not British) writers and editors. I don't think you need to awaken in a cold sweat and curse my name for the rest of your life; you just need to put the goddamned commas and periods inside of the motherfucking close quotes.

I currently edit medical advertising. Dave would actually have to say the word and then pay me a lot of money to take over your role. But didn't Diana Schutz proofread everything for him the first time around? Anyway, he seems to be pretty up on grammar, what with infer vs. imply and split infinitives (which are pretty accepted nowadays) mentioned in the comic itself.

Dave Sim said...

Testing Testing.

Dave Sim said...

Okay, this is my THIRD try at getting this to post.

Hi Jeff and Jack! I think this might be a question of British usage since I am, as a writer, in the British tradition.

Dave Sim said...

I hadn't considered it before, but I find the argument of "how MANY words are being quoted" to be persuasive. That is, if the quote can stand alone as a sentence, then I can see the period as serving double duty and should occur at the first point where that double duty takes place: inside the quotation marks. If the quote is of a phrase or a sentence fragment, then a period isn't required and should be outside the quotation marks.

Dave Sim said...

I think the Oxford Dictionary would be the definitive "last word" on British usage, so I'd suggest checking there to see what they say about it.

I don't agree with their expanded "misogynist" definition, but I think that has more to do with the Feminist Theocracy's complete takeover of all G7 campuses and self-interestedly loading already loaded terms. This seems to me to be in a different category: The Queen's English which (as far as I know) isn't changed to suit political motivations.

Dave Sim said...

Yes, Diana was the proofreader -- and an excellent one -- for a number of years until she quit over the Jeff Smith brouhaha (which I found weird and still find weird). Same deal as with Jeff Seiler: she made her corrections as she saw them and then I used some and didn't use others. As you can see there's a lot of individual perspectives on what's right and what's wrong. And different people have different ideas as to what makes a sentence or paragraph read more smoothly.

Maybe Jack, someday, can do the DEFINITIVE American Edition of CEREBUS!

Michael Grabowski said...

Next question: two spaces after each sentence-ending period, or just one?

Jeff Seiler said...

Hi, Michael--When I was taught to write, in junior high school and in high school, it was always two spaces between sentences. I've noticed that Dave seems to concur.

There are, however, many editors, primarily in the newspaper and magazine world, who say that it should only be one space between sentences. The reason is obvious. Space. On a printed page, in newspapers and magazines, where there is nearly always a limit to the number of pages to be fit between covers or between the front and last page, and where advertising space is always the most important, that extra space between sentences adds up quickly, en masse, and not in a good way. So, as a sportswriter, I learned, eventually, to just single-space between sentences. Also, to do so after colons, although, technically, what should follow a colon is two spaces and a capital letter.

So, IMH, but educated, O, the decision between two or one space between sentences and after colons depends on the type of publication.

Sean R said...

ONE space. One space. Unless you're typing on a typewriter, ONE SPACE. AAAAAAGH.

It's a typeset issue. No holes in your paragraphs. Let the typesetter (or type settings) take it over!

Please. Everyone. One space. Unless you're on a typewriter.

Tony Dunlop said...

I know nobody will see this, but I just thought of something. Since this is Oscar we're (well, Jeff is) proofreading, what's relevant isn't whether "houseguest" is preferred over "house-guest" in early 21st century North America; it's about which was preferred in late 19th century England. Right?

BTW the built-in Blogger "Spell-check" wants me to change "houseguest" to either "house guest" or "house-guest." So much for standardization...

Lastly, it seems AP is out for the season...hello, six-and-ten!

Jeff Seiler said...

Sean, I agree, for the most part. But, remember, the computer keyboard is a typewriter. QWERTY, and all that.

Tony, About one-quarter of the way into proofreading Jaka's Story, what you just thought of occurred to me. So, I called Dave and left a message for Dave to the effect of "if you don't want me to proofread [correct] Oscar's 'voice', then call me back and let me know. If I don't hear back from you within a few days, then I will assume that you want me to proceed with the proofreading of Jaka's Story as I have been doing." Dave did not call me back.

Also, Tony, I learned a long time ago rarely to trust SpellCheck and *never* to trust Grammar Check. Just sayin'.

Jeff Seiler said...

Appropos the issue of proofing Oscar's "voice" or not, Dave originally told me that I didn't need to proof Going Home because F. Stop's style of writing and Seiler's style would be so drastically different. And, Dave was correct. So, I didn't proof any of what F. Stop wrote. But, I did proof the end notes, about half of which corrections Dave agreed with and will be in the remastered edition.

Sean R said...


The keyboard isn't a typewriter, it's a human interface to a sophisticated typeset machine (the computer) that happens to look like a typewriter. On a typewriter, you as user are setting the type yourself, in a way, and so it might make sense aesthetically to make the choice to space over two spaces after a terminus—but when preparing text that will be visually composed (typeset) on a computer, it is strongly (see above for how strongly!) suggested (ahem) that only one space is required. So much so that editors of my acquaintance make finding and replacing two spaces with one one of their first tasks with a manuscript. (No joke).