Who’s a “Lazy” Copyeditor?

Editor’s Corner

Like all professional copyeditors, I try to keep up with news in my field, which means browsing the posts and articles of editors, grammarians, linguists, and lexicographers online. I do this both through RSS feed subscriptions—Feedly is my reader of choice—and also by bookmarking posts of interest into an “unread” folder, which I sit down and read through at odd moments.

Catching up recently, I saw that pushback against sticklers and language snobs was a common theme:

  • John McIntyre on the loaded charge of “lazy” against writers who adopt a controversial usage or style
  • Chiu Liu objecting to the shaming of young women with certain speech patterns
  • Sarah Bronson on how good grammar shouldn’t be seen as a matter of virtue
  • Rob Drummond on apostrophe vandals

(Thanks to Stan Carey’s “Link Love” post for pointing me to the last three.)

McIntyre’s post reminded me of something else I dislike when commenters call writers or editors “lazy.” We see this a lot online. A blogger will write about ignoring however at the beginning of a sentence or using they with a singular antecedent. The blogger will explain at length exactly why and when they choose to relax or abandon a rule, and sure as rain, someone will comment in a superior tone, “This is simply lazy.”

But who’s being lazy? (A) The writer or editor who keeps up with language trends, does the homework, formulates an argument, cites numbers and quotes great literature in support of a usage, and provides links to the work of language historians and linguists? Or (B), the stickler who shows up and proudly types “This is lazy”?

Sticklers stickle because they don’t know better and aren’t interested in listening or learning more. They seem to think that calling people names is a credible debate tactic. “Really?” I want to reply. “That’s all you’ve got?” If I wanted to be rude, I’d call them lazy.

Professional writers and editors stay informed and up to date and appreciate language in all its changing, wayward glory. One thing they’re not: lazy.

Photo courtesy of Clker-Free-Vector-Images.

Editor’s Corner posts at Shop Talk reflect the opinions of its authors and not necessarily those of The Chicago Manual of Style or the University of Chicago Press.

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Carol SallerCarol Saller, The Subversive Copy Editor, 2nd editionCarol Saller’s books include The Subversive Copy Editor and the young adult novel Eddie’s War. You can find Carol online at Twitter (@SubvCopyEd) and at Writer, Editor, Helper.

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2 thoughts on “Who’s a “Lazy” Copyeditor?

  1. I appreciate this blog post so much. I get irritated when friends and coworkers get caught up in grammar rules and Standard American English and shame others for their speech or writing. I have a degree in English and am working on a master’s degree in professional and technical writing (with an editing concentration). Continuing my education and being exposed to composition theory helped me become less of a grammar vigilante and more flexible in my editing.

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