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Another Word for Heartbreak

Posted on by Rachelle Mandik

Think back to the first time you realized a classmate was having a birthday party and you weren’t invited. Maybe one of your mutual friends let it slip why they weren’t free to hang out with you on Saturday. Maybe your classmate himself ballsed it up and called out, “Hey, see you guys on Sa—” before realizing everyone in the group of people he was talking to was invited except for you. In this moment, time slows down, like it does in a car crash or a shootout in a Wachowskis movie. It’s like you have been given extra time specifically in which to feel really sad. 

This is how I’m feeling today. 
An author whose books I’ve worked on since day one has apparently written a new one, albeit for a different imprint, and guess who wasn’t listed as “copyeditor” on the invitation list.
“Heartbroken” seems like too strong a word for missing out on the opportunity to work again with someone with whom you thought you had a tight working relationship. But it’s a flavor of sadness that perhaps the Inuit have a better word for, given how well they did with “snow.” For now, I’m sticking with heartbroken.
It’s not that I blame the author himself. Since that first book he’s become kind of famous, and I’ve always been incredibly happy for him, and a little bit for me too, because it’s by association that I’d gotten a lot of really good press early on. Someone who is that famous gets a pass when it comes to making up the invitation list to their party. It’s pure fantasy for me to imagine him saying to his agent or editor, “Hey, be sure you get my old copyeditor, Rachelle. That chick is so rad.”
But when I worked in-house as a production editor—the person whose job it is to extend that invitation—I would always, always find out whether a previously published author wanted to work with the same copyeditor. It just makes sense to keep the team together if everyone was happy. And if that author wrote multiple books and had the same copyeditor every time? That copyeditor would have to be dead for me not to invite them, even if I’d never worked with them before. In fact, I would have to find out they were dead by attempting to invite them. Heck, maybe I’d even have gone so far as to contact them via Ouija board to ask them if they wanted to work on this latest book anyway, even though they were dead.
So when I saw the author plugging his new memoir on Facebook (we are FB friends, fam, I didn’t get it from his fan page), I could have sworn I actually heard something shatter. 
Suddenly I was in third grade again, and a kid I thought of as a good pal was calling out, “Hey, see you guys on Sa—” And there I was, and here I am again, feeling sorry for myself on a Friday night.

 

Regular Updates to Blog Coming Soon!

Posted on by Rachelle Mandik

Imagine how amazed and delighted I was to have received multiple emails from this website asking me why I haven't updated the blog in so long! (If you are imagining, the answer is "very.")

The short story is that I've just been working so hard on, well, work! Also, as some folks may know, I've been spending a great deal of my "free" time on Twitter (@rachelle_mandik). OK, all of my free time.

But how can I let people down if blog posts are what they want? My plan is to start blogging again at least semi-regularly soon. I'd welcome replies with topic requests, so don't be shy. Say hi.

Thank you to those of you who cared enough to ask! I hope I'll do right by you!

 

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[Each Day] I Write the Book

Posted on by Rachelle Mandik

Every day (adv.): each day

Everyday (adj.): commonplace, ordinary

Nooooooooo. (Whole Foods tote bags, 2014)

Nooooooooo. (Whole Foods tote bags, 2014)

 

Part of my heart dies every time I see this mistake. Which is to say, every day.

C'mon, you guys. You can do better. I know you can!

 

 

My, What Big Teeth You Have, Grammar

Posted on by Rachelle Mandik

All my fellow copyeditor friends are busily posting cutesy articles on Facebook about National Grammar Day. Which, I guess, is today? Personally, I'd rather be celebrating Mardi Gras. It's a much cooler holiday. Nobody gets souvenir trinkets on Grammar Day.

Interestingly, what few of the "Grammar Day" articles seem to discuss is grammar. Because a lot of what people get irritated about in written communication, if they are the sort of people to get irritated at all, is not actually about grammar. It's about usage. Or spelling. But rarely about grammar. It's actually very difficult to make grammar mistakes in your native language. Violating the rules of the grammar of a language will sound inherently wrong to anyone committing the violation. A grammatical mistake is, mainly, when you get parts of speech confused.

Yoda makes grammatical mistakes. You? Probably not.

You know who else makes grammatical mistakes, like, nearly every week? Ira Glass.

I've been composing a complaint e-mail to him for a couple of years, ever since I first got into This American Life.  But I've been too chickenshit to send it. Certainly you are familiar with this amazing radio show. Every week I'm captivated by the stories of unusual Americans, told in their own words. And in 99 percent of cases, without grammatical mistakes. But then, Ira closes the show and says:

"Today's show was produced by myself, Ira Glass..."

No, Ira! Nooooo!

This nongrammatical bastardization instantaneously undoes for me all of the smart things he says in any given program. I mean, this is NPR for God's sake!

"Myself" is not a handy way of getting out of knowing the difference between when to say "I" and when to say "me." Although in this case it boggles the mind how he wouldn't know which is correct.

Would he ever catch himself saying in a game of baseball, "Hey, throw the ball to myself!"? No. Well, same thing here.

"Me" is an object: The show was produced by me. 

"Myself" is a reflexive pronoun and should only be employed when the subject of the sentence is "I." A reflexive pronoun must "reflect" back to the subject: I produced this show myself. I, myself, produced it.

Alas, "myself" abuse is rampant. So rampant, in fact, that it's on the verge of becoming a question of usage question rather than a question of grammar. Its misuse has grown so familiar to most people's ear that the violation is rarely noticed. How surprised can I be when even Mad-Libs doesn't identify parts of speech the way it used to. "Gerund" somehow became "verb ending in -ing."

My word hero, Bryan A. Garner, still classifies "myself" abuse as a severe infraction (stage 2 or stage 3, depending), so that's of some consolation. 

Although for real consolation, perhaps I should just have some beignets and focus on today's superior holiday.

Throw me something, mister!/Show me something, sister!

Fifty-Two

Posted on by Rachelle Mandik

Last month, my husband and I moved out of our New York City apartment and into our first house, in the suburbs of New Jersey. We both grew up in suburban households, and so in many ways this is a return to our roots. 

The house we bought is approximately twice the square footage of our old apartment, which itself was large by NYC standards, and yet we seem not to be the primary occupants or even the owners of our new dwelling. Who is? Our books. You see, when a copyeditor and a philosopher get married, their union produces a massive library of books.

Fifty-two book boxes' worth of them.  How many is that? Well, it takes up one of these, three of these, five of these, and a few others besides. With some spillover into piles on our desks or nightstands.

This past Sunday I saw this article in the NYT about the special kind of tyranny books can hold over our lives and I totally identified with it.

And like the author of the article, I find myself stymied as to how to solve this "problem."  

Surely part of the dilemma is vanity and is not a practical consideration at all. We've done the math. There'd have to be some Kurzweil-level singularity soon for it to be feasible that we read or re-read all these things.

Should I really hold on to my many Graham Greene mint-green-spined Penguin paperbacks from college when I didn't even particularly enjoy reading them at the time? Will a dinner guest ooh and ahh over the fact I have so many Graham Greene novels? Probably not.  But they do create an impression. That one of us is the kind of person who read, is reading, or would read them. Or that one of us endured an entire college course on Graham Greene. So they have to stay.

We can't get rid of one of the doubles, either. A guest surely will wonder why we have two copies of David Foster Wallace's Oblivion prominently displayed in our living room bookcase. But they're both autographed, and were from an event we attended together, so they both have to stay. And so it goes for nearly every book in our collection. It turns out there is some sentimental or aesthetic reason why none ever get kicked out of the gang. Except maybe the Camille Paglia books. We can't figure out why we still have those.

So our books are the stories we tell ourselves about ourselves, which we reinforce when we look at them. And also the story we tell visitors: We are the kind of people who have the books we have. Where some folks display artwork or objets (which we'd do more of if only we had the wall space), we display our books. And while we pay lip service to the idea that we'd like to have fewer books or that we'd like to streamline, we're always astonished and unnerved when we visit family or friends who don't have books around, so we keep all of our rectangular albatrosses and schlep them from place to place in fifty-two boxes. And so we will have to learn to live in their house. I hope they like it here. And I hope they let us stay.

 

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Whither the Adverb

Posted on by Rachelle Mandik

I was born in 1976 and was raised on The Electric Company and Schoolhouse Rock. Both of these programs were essential to my becoming a copyeditor, now that I look back at them. They made learning fun, obviously, but the lessons they imparted were hard to forget. The Schoolhouse Rock song "Lolly, Lolly, Lolly" and "The Ly Song" have been running through my head with every manuscript I work on lately. You know, these: 

So why these songs? Because it seems like more and more authors never learned about adverbs. Not just that they write things like "Go slow." That one's been around long enough that it sounds natural. 

But what sounds utterly unnatural is something like "Definite I want to go with you." Or "You probable know the person I'm talking about."

Or there's the variation where an adverb gets co-opted into a chimera of a hyphenated adjectival phrase. There's a food book I'm working on where these are rampant: "melting-sweet," "local-made."

These examples are not exaggerations. And neither are they the quirks of just one author. These grammatical goof-ups are seemingly everywhere. It's gotten to the point where I'm wondering if it's a thing now. A trend. A shift. 

Has anyone else out there noticed the lack of love for words that end in -ly? Many of them actually make it into print. Does it jar you? Do you ever find yourself avoiding adverbs? If so, why? 

Someone please help me understand this! Because I'm taking it poorly