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The Editing Hour: A Copyediting Quiz

I’ve been a bit absent from blogland this week because I have a deadline this Sunday. I have to edit a 400-page book in 10 days on top of my regular routine of taking care of two kids and doing 5000 loads of laundry every week. Because I haven’t done much copyediting this past year, I don’t have the Chicago Manual of Style memorized, so I’ve been looking up a lot of that picky little stuff that drives most people insane. Here are some examples of questions I’ve had, some I’ve looked up and some I haven’t yet. Take the quiz and put your answers in comments (if you dare)!

1. Late 80s or late-80s?
2. Can you be cognizant that or only cognizant of?
3. Is “its” capitalized in a title?
4. “the government practiced what it did best: resort to underhandedness.” (resort or resorted?)
5. Nonstrategic or non-strategic?
6. I love Professor John Jones or I love professor John Jones?
7. Is double punctuation ever okay? When? (I don’t mean “)
8. Can you use and/or in a series? e.g., “I love bananas, pears, and/or cherries.” That’s a bad example.
9. Germany, France and England’s citizens, or Germany’s, France’s, and England’s citizens?
10. “If corruption or violation of laws reach …” or “If corruption or violation of laws reaches …”?
11. When does a comma go inside of the quotation marks and not outside? (and I don’t mean in England)
12. Longer-term goals or longer term goals?
13. Startup or start-up? (many of these are found on, so not really editing questions)
14. Sugar processing plants or sugar-processing plants?

Good luck!

6 comments to The Editing Hour: A Copyediting Quiz

  • Hmm… My best (quick) efforts:

    1) Late 80s.

    2) Of.

    3) Yes.

    4) Resort.

    5) Non-strategic.

    6) Professor (capitalized).

    7) Er… I'm not sure what you mean by double punctuation… Skip!

    8) Hmm… Too lazy for this one, lol, sorry!

    9) I think it can go either way depending on what you want to mean, but for the most part, the former.

    10) reach.

    11) I think it's always inside in America.

    12) Longer-term.

    13) Startup (but I think you can use either).

    14) Sugar-processing plants.

  • RJSquirrel

    1. Depends on the use. “The young Mr. Madoff came to work for him in the late ‘80s” but “He wore a late-80s haircut.”

    2. Both!

    3. resort

    4. Yes

    5. Nonstrategic

    6. Professor but “I love my professor, John Jones (the cad).”

    7. Should I abbreviate Mister as Mr.?

    8. Reluctantly, I say yes. “I will have bananas, pears, and/or cherries in my bowl of Colon Blow.” But and/or is a terrible term.

    9. The latter

    10. Reaches

    11. Always.

    12. The former – the latter could mean longer goals for the term.

    13. It’s a startup sequence to get the space shuttle going, but a start-up venture to sell rides on the space shuttle.

    14. The latter – otherwise it could be a processing plant made of sugar.

    But what do I know; I am just a squirrel.

  • Answers/comments later since I'm still finishing this editing job, but a quick note: I wrote number 10 wrong. It was "if corruption or violations (plural) of law reach/reaches" and for this reason, I think it's "reach." I don't have my Woe Is I grammar bible on me, but I think the rule is when you have "or" between two things, you take the thing closest to the verb (violations) and use that to determine the verb (reach).

  • Okay, I am finally coming up for air after a very busy couple of weeks.

    To answer my own questions, I went with:

    1. Late 80s

    2. "Cognizant that" in this case, although I think it sound weird

    3. "Its" capitalized

    4. Resort

    5. Oy – the compounds give me a headache, but the rule goes like this: almost all words with non- have no hyphen (nonstrategic), but before a hyphenated compound, you use a hyphen (non-self-centered), and before an open (nonhyphenated) compound, you use an n-dash: non–jungle gym. The problem I had was deciding what constituted a compound and what didn't. My client used non- a LOT in her poly-sci book, and it was difficult to decide when to use the n-dash and when to close it up. I became very intimate with my Chicago Manual of Style these past couple of weeks.

    6. Professor, like most job titles, is capitalized immediately before a name.

    7. I need to find the examples of double punctuation that always confuse me, but RJ Squirrel proved that you can use double punctuation.

    8. The and/or in a series was extremely confusing. I changed it to "and" in the end.

    9. All apostrophes because each country has different citizens. If they shared citizens, the first would have been correct. Eg: "John and Julie's cats" means they share cats vs. "John's and Julie's cats" means they have separate cats.

    10. I answered this one in the previous comment.

    11. I had read somewhere that commas and periods could go inside of the quotes if you were quoting just a word or a phrase, iike "Big Oil". But it turns out that even in those cases, in the U.S. you would put the quotes outside of the punctuation. The ONLY time you wouldn't is if you were trying to emphasize that particular punctuation – if, for example, you wanted to show that the quoted phrase was a line of poetry and had no punctuation.

    12. Longer-term goals.

    13. RJ Squirrel answered this one above (Hey RJ, you should be an editor!)

    14. See 13.

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