Book Review: Moonlight Blogger—a Must-Read for Anyone Working with Words

Moonlight Blogger book coverWhen I first started out as a copyeditor, I was paranoid of making a mistake. I’d cling to rules and sources like a lifeline in a sea of words. After all, I was being paid to “fix” someone’s text. I didn’t want to miss anything or, worse yet, introduce an error.

That obsessive search for absolute correctness was hindering me from trusting my gut, thinking creatively, and simply enjoying the quirkiness of the English language.

It’s funny but advice from a pro makes me feel like it’s OK to go out on a limb and (gasp) make an editing decision that can’t be found in The Chicago Manual of Style. Dipping into Carol Fisher Saller’s book Moonlight Blogger, a collection of posts from her blog the Subversive Copy Editor, is like having a mentor beside me, giving me permission to use my own brain.

Saller (editor of Chicago’s Q&A and an editor of The Chicago Manual of Style) offers sound advice, practical tech tips, and funny stories from her own life (which she always seems to be able to tie back into editing and writing). Her book makes me feel like I’m not the only one sweating it out over a comma. Others have been here before and found their way.

Her approach to editing is, dare I say, beautiful: “what is this mania for ‘correctness’?” (Which isn’t a licence to flout the rules—just don’t be a slave to them!) Her tips are downright helpful, like applying what she calls the “cringe test,” which suggests that when doing battle with a tough paragraph, you “pretend it’s the only passage an old lover will read when he or she happens across it.”

If the Moonlight Blogger wasn’t on your must-read list of 2012, make sure it’s on your 2013 list. Read it like you would any good book—curled up beside the fireplace with a nip. Or keep it on hand at your desk beside your stack of style guides for moral support. I guarantee you’ll learn something from every article and come away laughing at yourself, too.

 

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