Copy Editing at The New Yorker with Mary Norris

mary norris new small (1 of 1)Mary Norris started working at The New Yorker  thirty-one years ago, in the editorial library, moving on to the collating department and the copy desk. Since 1993, she has been a page O.K.’er, or query proofreader.  She has written for The Talk of the Town and contributes to the New Yorker books blog.  She is working on a memoir about having a transsexual sibling, the legendary Baby Dee.  You can read Mary’s fabulously entertaining blog : “The Alternate Side Parking Reader.”

 By the way, if you want to learn more about copy editing from those who are the best in the business,  check out: The New Yorker Festival (October 16-18). This year  there is  a master class in copy editing, on Sunday, October 18th, at 2 P.M., with Ann Goldstein, the head of the copy department; Elizabeth Pearson-Griffiths; and Mary Norris. A program guide to the festival is in the issue of September 21, 2009, and online.

I want to talk to Mary about what really goes on at America’s most prestigious literary magazine.
 
 Andy: Mary, I understand that you often write  some extremely well-received books under the pseudonym: “Malcolm Gladwell.” Is this true?
 
Mary: Hah! Are you trying to get me in trouble?  Malcolm Gladwell is an incredible phenomenon. He is not a made-up composite of a writer but a real person, and though he must be a millionaire by now, amazingly, he continues to write.
  
Andy: Can you describe for us what a typical day is for you at The New Yorker?
 
Mary: The hours at The New Yorker are from ten to six, and I try to be on time, as it is embarrassing to be chronically late when you don’t have to be at the office till ten. We have a weekly schedule for closing the contents of an issue in an orderly fashion: fiction closes early in the week, critics at midweek, and the longer, more demanding pieces near the end of the week; Talk of the Town and Comment go to press last, on Friday. The head of the copy department, Ann Goldstein, parcels out the week’s tasks, matching up who is available with what needs to be done. If the lineup changes, we readjust.
 
There are four full-time O.K.’ers, as well as a team of about six proofreaders, some of whom act as O.K.’ers when we need them. Basically, on the day a piece closes, you read it, and give the editor your query proof, which will also contain the queries of a second proofreader, and after the editor has entered all the acceptable changes and sent the new version to the Makeup Department, you read that new version. There will sometimes be a “closing meeting,” when the editor, the writer, the fact checker, and the O.K.’er sit down together over the page proof and discuss final changes. The O.K.’er then copies these changes onto a pristine proof called the Reader’s (to keep the paper trail) and enters them into the electronic file, and sends the revised piece back to Makeup. The next version is read against the Reader’s proof by another layer of proofreaders, the night foundry readers. The system is full of redundancy and safety nets.
 
 Andy: Wow! That is even more proofreading than I do on this blog.  You do copy editing there. What is a copy editor? How is it different from a line editor?
 
Mary: The job descriptions at The New Yorker are different from those at book publishing houses and other magazines. We have a copy desk, and the job of the copy editor is to do the first pass on a piece, when the manuscript is “set up,” that is, set in type for general distribution. At this stage, the copy editor makes minimal changes, in spelling and punctuation, to conform to New Yorker style. You may have noticed that we spell “theatre” the British way, reversing the “er” to “re,” and double consonants before suffixes (“travelled,” rather than “traveled”); we use the diaeresis in words like “coöperate” and “reëlect”; we prefer the serial comma; we spell out round numbers, even big ones. The copy editor does not make any interpretive changes.
 
Next (and you won’t find this job anyplace else) a piece is “Goulded.” This used to be the domain of the legendary Eleanor Gould Packard, a grammarian and a genius whose old office I now occupy, though I am neither a grammarian nor a genius (except for real estate: the office has a great view). One of the query proofreaders, on a day when she is not O.K.’ing a piece, reads the galleys of a piece that is scheduled for a future issue, fixing spelling and punctuation, of course, but also making more subtle suggestions.  Query proofreaders at The New Yorker are probably more like line editors at other publications. We go over the piece twice. We fix danglers. We try to improve the sentences, making sure that the author is saying what he or she intends to say. Eleanor Gould was big on clarity, and I have absorbed some of that. Basically, you’re giving the piece a really close reading.
 
When a piece is scheduled to run in the magazine, we read it again, twice. As I said above, in addition to the O.K.’er, each piece has a second reader, to back up the O.K.’er. The O.K.’er then has the duty of reading the piece yet again, to make sure no mistakes have been introduced, and also to smooth things out. Sometimes a fact checker’s language does not blend in with the writer’s voice, although the checkers work closely with the writers. Any material added by the writer or the checker has to be copy-edited. This takes as long as it takes, and we don’t rush out at 6 P.M.
  
Andy: I have always heard that The New Yorker had extremely rigorous standards for copy editing and fact checking.  (Or perhaps I should say: “cöpy ёditing”)  Can you talk about that? How is your job copy editing different from, say, that of a copy editor at the National Enquirer?
 
Mary: I don’t know what it’s like to be a copy editor at the  National Enquirer. The main thing here is to respect the writer. The writers don’t have to do everything we want them to—we make suggestions. The ideal would be to give an editor a proof and have all your suggestions meet with approval. Sometimes you notice that your suggestions have not been taken, so if something bothers you, you try again. Sometimes you wear them down, sometimes you cave.
 
I have been on both sides of the process, as a writer and as a query proofreader. Being edited sometimes felt like having my bones reset on a torture rack. I don’t ever want to do that to a writer, but I probably have from time to time. “What is this, the adverb police?” a writer who shall remain nameless once said in my earshot. “You betcha,” I wanted to say. I don’t remove every word ending in “ly,” but I like economy and concision.  
 
  Andy: The New Yorker has such an iconic status in the literary world. When Vicky Raab quoted me in the New Yorker blog, I went around for weeks telling my friends I had become a “New Yorker writer.”  Does the office reflect this kind of exalted status? Or is the workplace like everywhere else? You know, people complaining about the bad plumbing, that sort of thing.
 
Mary: Bad plumbing! How did you know? There is someone who trashes the ladies’ room regularly, and we can’t figure out who it is.
 
When you have worked at a place for a while, it is bound to lose its mystique. But as someone who has occasionally been published in The New Yorker, I cannot deny that it is always a thrill to have a piece accepted. You belong to the same tradition as some great, great writers. And although sometimes you are just churning your way through the week, other times you’re getting paid to read something great. We are probably all in this business because we like to read, right? So what could be better?
 
 Andy: I have always imagined that most of the real workers at the magazine, the guys who don’t do the featured stories, are writers in their other lives. Probably pretty good writers. Is that true? Is TNY a good gig for a writer? Connections and all that stuff? Entrée to parties at the Hamptons?
 
Mary: You’re right there. Many of the people on the editorial staff have the will to write: they’re poets, essayists, novelists, playwrights,  journalists. I have a novel in my bottom drawer, if you’d like to take a look at it. I guess what we have is access: I can e-mail the editor-in-chief, or talk to an editor if I have an idea. But, obviously, the staff writers are given preference, and you are competing with them just like anyone else. Sometimes people leave The New Yorker to take writing jobs elsewhere.
 
I have never been invited to a party in the Hamptons, but maybe I’m just not working the connections assiduously enough. One of the perks is grabbing books off the book bench—review copies that get sent to the magazine (there’s no way we can review all the books that get sent here). Recently I asked Roger Angell to sign a copy of his 2008 Christmas poem for my second cousin Dennis Kucinich (rhymes with “spinach”), whom I met at a family reunion. Another perk is getting to hobnob with the cartoonists. When a copy of the magazine lands on my desk on Monday morning, the first thing I do is still to flip through it looking at the cartoons.
 
 Andy: You have worked under William Shawn, Robert Gottlieb, Tina Brown, and David Remnick. Do you have a sense that there was a “golden age” of TNY or are we living in it now?
 
Mary: Hmmm. Sometimes when I have occasion to look back at an issue from the Shawn days, I am moved by the beauty of those vintage magazines: the lines of type were fitted character by character, the hot type is very alive, the black-and-white columns of print have a classic purity. Bob Gottlieb was careful to maintain that, though he introduced some changes. Tina Brown brought in color and photography, and shortened the length of pieces (and probably the attention span of the general reader). I think that what David Remnick has done is bring his newsman’s nose to the job. Remnick has succeeded in making The New Yorker a vital part of the national conversation. We seem to have found our voice after 9/11.
 
On the other hand, you find fewer quirky pieces that may not be particularly newsworthy but that readers love. For instance, “Uncle Tungsten,” by Oliver Sacks. (I still regret making him spell “sulfur” our way, with the “f,” when he wanted to spell it the old-fashioned British way, “sulphur,” which he’d grown up with.) Ian Frazier’s two-part piece on his travels in Siberia is a good recent example of a beautiful, funny, interesting, old-fashioned piece of writing. A good writer can make you care about anything.
 
Andy: Is your job satisfying?
 
Mary: The thing I like most about my job is that it draws on my entire background. I know a little Italian and Greek that sometimes come in handy. I once caught a mistake in Middle English (in a piece by Andrew Porter yet)—the only time my graduate degree has ever had a practical use. I know the name of the airport in Cleveland, and that can be useful when you’re reading a piece of fiction by a Southern writer who is making things up about northern Ohio. It’s redemptive to have a practical use for the arcana of Roman Catholicism.  
 
  Andy: What qualities make a person a good candidate for copy editing?
 
 Mary: Self-doubt. It’s always good, before changing something, to stop and wonder if this is a mistake or if the writer did this for a reason. When you’ve read a piece five or more times, it is tempting to believe that it must be perfect, but you have to stay alert for anything you might have missed. Eternal vigilance! It also helps to have read widely (and well), and to have noticed, while you’re at it, how words are spelled. Of course you have to be attentive to details—you have to be a bit of a nitpicker yet be constructive in your nit-picking. You have to love language. And not be too proud to run spell-check.

 Andy: I hope this isn’t too naughty to ask, but can you tell me the three  biggest style errors that you have gotten from New Yorker writers?

 Mary:   When I first got into the copy-editing game, I wondered why writers persisted in the error of their ways when they must have seen the changes that the editors made. Finally I figured out that it isn’t the writers’ job to style their own copy. For writers, having to think about those things is constricting. Plus, if they did, it would put us out of a job.

 But here are a few things that have irked or puzzled me.

  1. There was a writer who spelled “annihilate” with just one “n.” And he used it in every other sentence. This was back in the days before word processors, when I was in the collating department and had to prepare handwritten Reader’s proofs for the printer. I must have written the word “annihilate” four hundred times. The writer never did notice that it had two “n”s.
  2. One stubborn editor refused to believe that “arrhythmia” was spelled with two “r”s. This doesn’t come up often,  but it is odd to have someone simply refuse to spell a word right because he thinks it looks funny. It’s almost admirable.
  3. The difference between “lie” and “lay” in the past tense continues to confound. It is “lie, lay, lain” (intransitive verb, meaning “to recline”) and “lay, laid, laid” (transitive verb, meaning “to set [something] down”). “Laid” is so often used incorrectly as the past tense of “lie” (as in “She laid down for a nap” [ding, ding, ding: wrong!]) that people are afraid to use it even when it’s right, so you’ll get a sentence like “She lay the stones on the grave.” It doesn’t set off so many bells, but it’s a mistake, in this case attributable to overcorrectness.

  Andy: Mary, this has been fascinating. You expand this into a 50,000 word piece, and I can sell it to Knopf.

Final note: After completing this interview, I sent the text to Mary. She sent it back, hurling me into copy edit hell. I spent 3 hours correcting her edits that included caps to  lower case, lower case to caps, spaces between periods and colons, assorted italics and the list goes on.  This exercise was a powerful lesson, in itself, in the work of a copy editor. I’m exhausted from the experience.

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85 Responses to “Copy Editing at The New Yorker with Mary Norris”

  1. Chris Wolfgang Says:

    Ms. Norris sounds like quite the editorial guru. I hang my head in shame that, even as an editor myself, I still have to google lie vs. lay.

    • andyrossagency Says:

      She edited the text for this interview. It was quite an ordeal for me. The New Yorker has a reputation of being the most meticulous magazine for copy editing and fact checking. I learned that the hard way.

  2. gregfreed Says:

    Very interesting interview. I’m an MFA in Creative Writing student looking to move to New York and edit professionally when I’m done (I freelance now), so I envy your experience, Mary, and look forward to saying that I work at a job where I can bring the full weight of my obscure background. :)

  3. Twitter Trackbacks for Copy Editing at The New Yorker with Mary Norris « Ask the Agent [andyrossagency.wordpress.com] on Topsy.com Says:

    [...] Copy Editing at The New Yorker with Mary Norris « Ask the Agent andyrossagency.wordpress.com/2009/09/20/copy-editing-at-the-new-yorker-with-mary-norris – view page – cached Mary Norris started working at The New Yorker thirty-one years ago, in the editorial library, moving on to the collating department and the copy desk. — From the page [...]

  4. Susan Thomsen Says:

    I thoroughly enjoyed this interview with Mary. I learned so much from her when we worked together years ago.

  5. Online Book Store and News - Mary Norris on Copy Editing at The New Yorker Says:

    [...] not miss this educational and entertaining interview with our very own Mary Norris on Andy Ross’s blog. Mary has been at the magazine thirty-one years, and has been an [...]

  6. Ken Bolton Says:

    “This doesn’t come up often, and but it is odd to have someone simply refuse to spell a word right because he thinks it looks funny.”
    With such fine copy-editing minds applied to this piece, how on earth did that sentence make it into print?

  7. gpf Says:

    The New Yorker is, indeed, generally quite meticulous. I have noticed, however, a disturbingly increasing number of errors/typos/solecisms in the past couple of years. Anyone else agree?

    • The Book Doctor Says:

      I too have found more errors lately. Missing words, doubled words, misspelled words, and even a rare grammatical error have crept in. Sob. I miss Eleanor Gould Packard.

  8. links for 2009-09-22 « Fantasising Zombies Says:

    [...] Copy Editing at The New Yorker with Mary Norris « Ask the Agent (tags: writing) [...]

  9. Linklog: Ted Hughes and the Queen Mother, censored Moby Dick, and more | Yuvablog Says:

    [...] What it’s like to be copy-edited (or rather copy-edited, then query-proofread, then proofread, then night-foundry proofread) by the New Yorker. [...]

  10. Solar Panel Says:

    Hi, wonderful read. I just found your blog and I’m already a fan. =]

  11. Polly Says:

    A fascinating article, and I would buy the book. What I’d like to know is the logic behind spelling theatre in the English way, and sulphur in the American English way. I’m English, and live in England, so am prejudiced — and curious.

  12. don’t shoot the panda: proofreading at work | Librarians do it Between the Covers Says:

    [...] say about a second pair of eyes? Absolutely true. I read an article in The New Yorker recently, an interview with copy editor Mary Norris. Ms. Norris describes the workflow at TNY, where every OK-er has a backup person to check them. [...]

  13. JimmyBean Says:

    I don’t know If I said it already but …I’m so glad I found this site…Keep up the good work I read a lot of blogs on a daily basis and for the most part, people lack substance but, I just wanted to make a quick comment to say GREAT blog. Thanks, :)

    A definite great read..Jim Bean

  14. BloggerDude Says:

    I don’t know If I said it already but …Hey good stuff…keep up the good work! :) I read a lot of blogs on a daily basis and for the most part, people lack substance but, I just wanted to make a quick comment to say I’m glad I found your blog. Thanks,)

    A definite great read….

  15. etcetera — Copy editing at the New Yorker Says:

    [...] Copy editing at the New Yorker with Mary Norris.  (via) [...]

  16. Ed Swierk Says:

    “we spell out round numbers, even big ones”

    Translation: we value our stodgy style rules over clarity. Does anyone think “six hundred and seventy-five to seven hundred and seventy-five billion dollars,” as written in this week’s issue, is preferable to “$675 billion to $775 billion”?

  17. Marc Shaw Says:

    Hey, I read a lot of blogs on a daily basis and for the most part, people lack substance but, I just wanted to make a quick comment to say GREAT blog!…..I”ll be checking in on a regularly now….Keep up the good work! :)

    – Marc Shaw

  18. Anne Fox Says:

    Now I understand the rationale for the strange spelling in The New Yorker (doubling letters), but not strange punctuation, such as a comma after “but” when it’s not necessary. My several recent books make copyedit, copyediting, copyeditor one word, and so do I.

  19. More Tracks Than Necessary » Remainders, September 28 Says:

    [...] of Higher Education • Ten Things You Can Do to Start a Community Garden, The Nation • Copy Editing at the New Yorker with Mary Norris • Big Food vs. Big Insurance, Michael Pollan • Why Good Writers Can Be Bad [...]

  20. Max Morenberg Says:

    Insightful comments about copyediting.

    I spent a week in a cardiac ward some years ago. No one in the hospital, not the housekeepers, not the cardiac surgeons, not the nurses, no one differentiated lie (intransitive) from lay (transitive). Conclusion: we no longer have two separate verbs lie and lay in the language. Lay is now transitive and intransitive. Lie does not exist.

  21. James Says:

    “Andy: I have always heard that The New Yorker had extremely rigorous standards for copy editing and fact checking.”

    Copy editing, maybe, but fact checking? Did you not read about the EssJay scandal and how it took them five months to figure out that they’d been hoodwinked? A minimum of fact-checking should have unearthed the fraud; in fact they didn’t even discover it themselves, but were informed of it by Daniel Brandt.

    James

  22. Styles Says:

    “What is this, the adverb police?” a writer who shall remain nameless once said in my earshot. “You betcha,” I wanted to say. I don’t remove every word ending in “ly,” but I like economy and concision.

    Well said, Mary.

  23. Rob T. Says:

    “My several recent books make copyedit, copyediting, copyeditor one word, and so do I.”

    Yes, that’s the vulgar trend, and you are right in line with it. I hope that *The New Yorker*, at least, will resist it.

  24. Terry Collmann Says:

    Do you say “copy [slight but perceptible pause] edit”, Rob T? I bet you say “copyedit”, and so does almost everybody (not “every [slight but perceptible pause] body”), so that’s why it should now be written like that.

    • Clara Says:

      Well, by that reasoning it should be icetea, icecream, cellphone, wouldyoulikefrieswiththat, etc. Whether or not people think and pronounce something as one lexical item does not necessarily get reflected in the orthography. That’s why we need style editors and copy editors if we want to maintain a standard written language.

      • Terry Collmann Says:

        I don’t think you understand what copyeditors do, Clara. They don’t “maintain a standard written language”, they impose a single style at the publication they work for, to ensure consistency in the product and to stop individuals constantly changing things to match their own personal preferences.

        And yes, logically it should be icecream, and cellphone. Although not “icetea”, at least not in my idiolect, because I still say “ice [slight but perceptible pause] tea”. Your mileage (or indeed milage, depending on your stylebook – either can be correct) may differ.

  25. What do copy editors do, exactly? « A Few Things Considered … Says:

    [...] do copy editors do, exactly? 24 07 2010 A great answer to that question is supplied in this Q&A with Mary Norris, a copy editor with The New Yorker. I especially liked this bit: Andy: What qualities make a person [...]

  26. Liam Says:

    What the world needs now is more editors.

  27. Markangelo Says:

    Obviously Andrew Breitbart does not have equally high standards & ethics toward the fourth estate. It seems the cursory rumor of yellow dog jounalism
    has still a firm anchor at The New Yorker. Intelligent readers like to look at the horses teeth, thanx4 double sourcing the facts.

  28. Jerryboy Says:

    I loved this interview. I never knew copyeditors could maintain bubbly, creative personalities after years of grinding work.

  29. Graham Asher Says:

    She likes ‘economy and concision’. Both of those things, but what is the difference? And thinks British spelling is somehow old fashioned. Not impressive.

    • Shirley Knuckey Says:

      I loved this piece! We New Zealanders have caught the The New Yorker bug, after discovering it in our local lending Library. Subscription rates are excellent value. It was illuminating to note Mary’s references and rationale re English spelling – which is our lingua franca here. I missed any comments about the cartoons and who critiques those. i.e. “Is anyone going to get this?” (Ahem … we often don’t – but love the challenge). Long live The New Yorker! It has more than anything evoked a respect for ‘America’ that may never have arisen otherwise in our lives.

  30. Alana Forsyth Says:

    Gotta agree with Graham Asher.

    And the drink isn’t “ice tea” but “iced tea,” though it sounds like the former.

    And “copyeditor” or “copy editor” is *still* a dumb term for what we do.

  31. Alana Forsyth Says:

    I’m wrong about the tea — sorry…. arghhh.

  32. Bynum Petty Says:

    “Check, check and double check” goes without saying, but if the proofreader isn’t fluent with the rules of engagement, what’s the point? Throughout the interview, the reader is assaulted with “O.K.’ers,” which should read “O.K.ers,” the later being plural and the former being possessive. I doubt that Mary Norris should be credited with this misdemeanor. Andy Ross take note: Samuel Johnson said that “I am not yet so lost in lexicography, as to forget that words are the daughters of the earth . . .” As such, it is our sacred obligation to treat words and the language that enfolds them with great care and deference.

    • Anonymous Says:

      O.K., I have to come to the defense of Andy Ross. That was my mistake: misoverpunctuating my own job title! Mr. Petty is quite right that it should read “O.K.ers,” but not because “O.K.’ers” is possessive. That would be “O.K.er’s” or “O.K.ers'” (just to beat it to death). My mistake was that I had “O.K.” mixed up with “K.O.,” and I’m sure I’ve seen “K.O.’d” (as well as “O.D.’d”), where the apostrophe is showing a contraction: the “e” of the suffix “ed” is left out. Nothing is left out in “O.K.er,” so it doesn’t need an apostrophe. I stand corrected. Thank you.

    • Hannah Says:

      “Throughout the interview, the reader is assaulted with “O.K.’ers,” which should read “O.K.ers,” the later being plural and the former being possessive. ”

      You mean Latter…

      Even monkeys fall from trees!

  33. Darrell Strong Says:

    This article was excellent. It was the perfect length for reading while I ate my sandwich.

  34. MICHAEL ROLOFF Says:

    so how does something as godaweful as geoffrey eugenides story
    extreme solitude

    http://www.newyorker.com/fiction/features/2010/06/07/100607fi_fiction_eugenides

    actually manage to see the light of day without all those proofers puking all over it???
    > http://www.facebook.com/mike.roloff1?ref=name

  35. Sally Noonan Says:

    Thank you.

  36. Galen Pletcher Says:

    Mary, sometimes writers do learn from editors. I well remember a piece early in my career that was returned for proofing, and every “that” had been changed to “which” (and vice versa). I teach philosophy, so I went down the hall to my favorite English prof, and he patiently explained the difference. I was amazed that I had been so wrong. I never throw away a book, so I went deep into my collection and found the high school grammar book that we had gone through page by page in junior and senior years. There was an entire page devoted to that/which, and it was clear that it had not been assigned. Not a mark on it. Apparently my teacher believed (1960 and 1961) that the distinction didn’t merit our attention. So. I’ve become a that/which fiend! Nothing like a mid-life conversion!

  37. Ravikumar Says:

    //Self-doubt. It’s always good, before changing something, to stop and wonder if this is a mistake or if the writer did this for a reason.// A lesson not only for copy editors also for writers. I am from a race who speaks Tamil- a language declared as ‘classical’ by the government of India. we publish hundreds of weeklies and thousands of books every year. but there is no copy editor here. tragic.

  38. Harriet Brown Says:

    I worked with Mary at the late great Wigwag, back in 1989-1991. And I would have to say that a lot of what I know about copy editing I learned from her. Plus, she’s one of the funniest writers around.

  39. Laura Says:

    I came to this interview by way of Arts & Letters Daily – I enjoyed it immensely. Thanks for running the gauntlet to make it happen. I love learning about the (relatively) unsung people who make something sublime happen, especially issue after issue.

    I highly recommend Marilyn Chandler McEntyre’s “Caring for Words in a Culture of Lies.”

  40. Peter Timbuak Says:

    Just the printers devil? i love to know more.

  41. Ken Turnbull Says:

    The American propensity for eliminating hyphens in compound words is gradually spreading in Australia, which has generally followed British style. No matter whether one pauses slightly in pronouncing compound words, most of them look awful on the page. Gastrointestinal, coworker, cooperate, antialiasing and macroeconomic constitute just a small sample.

  42. Sidik Fofana Says:

    Great interview

  43. Valerij Tomarenko - Übersetzer und Dolmetscher für russisch - englisch - deutsch Says:

    Much of it is also true of translation. As a translator, you are not in a position to copy edit the original document of your client (apart from occasionally making some polite suggestions or indicate typos), but actually you do copy edit it in the translation. An excellent interview. Thanks a lot.

  44. mandadiaz Says:

    Wow, is it completely nerdy to say that Mary’s job sounds like heaven?

  45. 9billionnames Says:

    Loved reading this article – and the editing was m mmm: el dente.
    Ta

  46. Kimberlynn Says:

    Can someone please explain to me what the serial comma is? If you would be so kind, my email address is: kimi_silva@ymail.com
    Thank you.

  47. Jim O'Connor Says:

    The hipster pop group Vampire Weekend is indifferent to the serial comma, and some of the other concerns of copy editing, as well. (They prefer using the tonier name for the comma in question, though.) The first verse of “Oxford Comma” (2008):

    Who gives a fuck about an oxford comma?
    I’ve seen those english dramas too
    They’re cruel
    So if there’s any other way
    To spell the word
    It’s fine with me, with me
    . . . .

    Good to see that the kids are talking about language.

  48. Inside The New Yorker - Staff Blog - The Writer Magazine Online Community Says:

    [...] “Copy Editing at The New Yorker with Mary Norris,” the interview comes to us courtesy of Andy Ross at his blog, which he calls “Ask the Agent: Night Thoughts [...]

  49. William MacAdams Says:

    “Since 1993, she has been a page O.K.’er . . .” You should have had Mary Norris copy-edit this article.

  50. A arte da edição | Bibliotecário de Babel Says:

    [...] a pena ler, de fio a pavio, esta entrevista a Mary Norris, uma das responsáveis pela impecável, minuciosa e hiper-perfeccionista edição dos textos da [...]

  51. plethaurus / What it’s like to be a copy editor Says:

    [...] Norris is a “page OK-er” or query proofreader for The New Yorker magazine. In an interview with literary agent Andy Ross, she describes the process of checking an article before publication: “…the job of the [...]

  52. What do copy editors do, exactly? | A Few Things Considered … Says:

    [...] great answer to that question is supplied in this Q&A with Mary Norris, a copy editor with The New Yorker. I especially liked this bit: Andy: What qualities make a person [...]

  53. need copyeditors « Editor's Essentials Says:

    [...] a comment » In his blog Ask the Agent, Andy Ross interviewed Mary Norris of the New Yorker. In a comment, one Ravikumar, apparently from my state, Tamil Nadu,  [...]

  54. Nerd News: 31 Aug. Edition « Read it Blog Says:

    [...] What is it like to be a copy Editor at The New Yorker? File this one under ‘dream job’ Workin’ ten to six? Yes Please! [...]

  55. nyc Says:

    a simpsons reference:

    homer leafing through a pile of mail comments: and here’s another rejection slip from the the new yorker — close up shows its from the subscription department.

  56. proofreading at the New Yorker | clusterflock Says:

    [...] An interview with Mary Norris, the copy editor at The New Yorker, about, among other things, job descriptions and the stylistic preferences of the magazine. The job descriptions at The New Yorker are different from those at book publishing houses and other magazines. We have a copy desk, and the job of the copy editor is to do the first pass on a piece, when the manuscript is “set up,” that is, set in type for general distribution. At this stage, the copy editor makes minimal changes, in spelling and punctuation, to conform to New Yorker style. You may have noticed that we spell “theatre” the British way, reversing the “er” to “re,” and double consonants before suffixes (“travelled,” rather than “traveled”); we use the diaeresis in words like “coöperate” and “reëlect”; we prefer the serial comma; we spell out round numbers, even big ones. The copy editor does not make any interpretive changes. [...]

  57. The Editor’s Corner « Sea of Reads Says:

    [...] Have you ever wondered what it’s like to be a copy editor at The New Yorker? Well, it’s just as you imagined. Rigorous. And wonderful. [...]

  58. Linklog: Ted Hughes and the Queen Mother, censored Moby Dick, and more Says:

    [...] What it’s like to be copy-edited (or rather copy-edited, then query-proofread, then proofread, then night-foundry proofread) by the New Yorker. [...]

  59. Weight Loss Program Reviews Says:

    Wow that was strange. I just wrote an extremely long comment but after I clicked submit my comment didn’t appear. Grrrr… well I’m not writing all that over again. Anyway, just wanted to say superb blog!
    Weight Loss Program Reviews

  60. Copy Editing Says:

    As a lover of Copy Editing, I wanted to thank you for writing this article. Many people don’t respect what we do, but it is people like you that help us to gain the respect that we deserve in copy editing. Thank you,.

    • andyrossagency Says:

      Thanks so much. As an agent, I find that I have to do more copy editing than I had imagined. And I also have to wade through ms. that have not been copy edited. So I very much appreciate the work you do.

  61. The Moby-Dick Big Read: Chapters 2 to 8 « Eva Stalker Says:

    [...] 6: The Street, Read by Mary Norris. Artist: Timothy [...]

  62. social media Says:

    Hello, I enjoy reading through your article. I wanted to write a little comment to
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  63. Tom Slaiter Says:

    Mary Norris definitely knows her stuff :-) Good job on the post, was an interesting read1

  64. Samuel Says:

    Amazing interview

  65. James Says:

    I still don’t know WHY New Yorker prefers British spellings for words such as “timbre,” “metre, etc.–it is an American magazine, after all–but does not use colour or centre, for example. Is there a logic to this?

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