Copy editor, copyeditor, schmopyeditor
Carol Saller, the Subversive Copy Editor, author of the book of that name, and a senior manuscript editor at the University of Chicago Press, recounts at her blog her horror at the discovery, as her book was going to press, that The Chicago Manual of Style prefers copyeditor.
These things happen. There was grumbling in certain quarters when the newsletter for the trade changed its name to Copyediting. We’re copy editors, the Old Guard rumbled.
But in fact there has long been varying practice, the copy editing at newspapers, magazines, and books being distinct branches of the craft with little crossover. Some were copy editors and some copyeditors. (In Britain, we’re subeditors, or subs.)
There’s little prospect of a resolution of the inconsistency, and there is little need for it. One consequence of the Worldwide War on Editing is that both copy editing and copyediting are vanishing. To the advanced thinkers in the world of publishing and their cheese-paring financial minions, we’re living in a merry post-modernist world in which things like factual accuracy or external reality are mere constructs, chimeras. Readers don’t care so long as they get what they want.
To these worthies, copy editors might as well be scratching quills on vellum in the scriptorium. Dispensable. Oh, there will be some remaining redoubts—Chicago, Oxford, The New York Times while it lasts. But to those of us who have had a glimpse of the future, it’s evident that the time is not far off when a lexicographer will make an entry along these lines:
copy editor (alt. copyeditor) n. (archaic)