Today we at Abbeville square off yet again against our older, more orange rival, The Chicago Manual of Style, in a grueling battle for style guide supremacy. (You can find previous battles here and here.) This time, the fight is personal. In one of the opening chapters of their latest edition, Chicago presumes to delineate “The Manuscript Editor’s Responsibilities.” We’re manuscript editors, and we only found out maybe two, three weeks ago that we had anything of the kind. Let’s see how our vision of our job compares to Chicago’s—and let our readers decide for themselves which vision they prefer. To arms!
Style Points: The Manuscript Editor’s Responsibilities
1.1. Manuscript editing and developmental editing. According to Chicago, “manuscript editing…requires attention to every word in a manuscript…and the ability to make quick, logical, and defensible decisions.” True enough. Lightning speed, merciless logic, and mastery of self-defense are the essential survival skills of a good editor—and of a worthy opponent. So far, so good. But Chicago continues: “[Manuscript editing] is distinct from developmental editing (not discussed in this manual), which addresses more radically the content of a work.” WHOA! If you can’t handle radical editing, Chicago, you might as well not have shown up, because that’s the only kind we do.
1.2. Stages of editing. Chicago claims that “Editors usually go through a manuscript three times.” Three times? That’s all they can handle? That’s what they call “responsibility”? Maybe chumps take three glances at a manuscript and call it a day; editors go through a manuscript nine times and throw in a tenth because they love the smell of the ink, the serifs of the font, and the blind rush of power that comes from sending superfluous commas to their doom.
1.3. Discretion in substantive editing. Chicago: “A light editorial hand is nearly always more effective than a heavy one.” Abbeville: [crosses out this lame advice]
1.4. Flexibility in citation style. “Before making sweeping changes” to citations, warns Chicago, “the editor should consult the author or the publisher or both.” Actually, citations are the place where an author or publisher is least likely to notice sweeping changes. I mean, we’ve had books where we could have turned every footnote into a Snapple Fact and no one would ever have…I mean…heh…[NOTE TO OUR PUBLISHER: Kidding. – Ed.] Well, it’s the principle, anyway.
We could go on—and in future battles, we will—but it’s Friday, and right now it’s our editorial responsibility to finish up work and go have an amazing weekend. According to Chapter IX, Section 2, Rule 5.6 of The Abbeville Manual of Style, you are advised to do the same.