Oxford Blues

Correct comma usage is harder to explain than football’s offside rule. Though oversimplified, those that learn more using visual learning aids will appreciated this animated TED-ed short which sheds light on the matter:

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 Diary of a Madman

Nick Cave writing lyrics.

I often appreciate insight into the verbosity of my favourite writers. I’d read that Nick Cave‘s love of language began at an early age so it pleased me to see pages from a tatty old journal that the songwriter, author and screenwriter kept as a young adult, one that duly screams ‘portrait of the artist as a morbid man’:

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Comma Karma

A friend rather glibly reduced the role of a copy editor as someone who, “just checks spelling mistakes and stuff…”

Not one to wax on about work stress – I appreciate that jobs which require technical and creative skill in equal measure are hard to come by – but as a copy editor, one must remain unruffled in the eye of any storm. There’s the hum of a constant deadline against the unrelenting clock, the lack of recognition among peers who write terribly, an end ‘result’ that is always open to question, while maintaining your raison d’être for compacting text into tiny boxes, as if playing – as a colleague once put it – “a frantic game of Tetris with words”. In today’s climate, with so many publications calling for ‘self publishers’, and writers who sub and upload work themselves often with catastrophic results, I tend to find myself questioning my past choices.

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It was timely then that a piece came along to reaffirm my love of setting commas in their rightful place. The New Yorker‘s grande dame of copy editing, Mary Norris, has written a paean to wordsmithery, entitled Between You & Me – Confessions of a Comma Queen (W.W. Norton & Company / out May 2015). Charting her career beginnings before moving on to a humbling tale of a 1960s firebrand eking out a career in a male-dominated industry – this book seeks to legitimise the potent and perpetual urge to thumb through that AP Stylebook as if your life truly depends on it.

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