How many people do you think read this page before you? I have, of course, as has deputy editor Dan Ferrara, who deletes anything that's not up to his standards and adds a felicitous phrase here and there to make me sound smarter than I am.
The art department tinkers with type size, the executive editor reads it two times once it is in page, the production manager runs it across her sightline, and the managing editor takes a look just before it's shipped electronically to the printer. All this for about 400 words.
But the heroes of this particular tale are our two copy editors: copy chief Peter J. McLaughlin and his deputy, Pam Warren. They scrutinize every word, every sentence, every comma, from manuscript to published page. Peter and Pam know more about punctuation and grammar than I ever learned from my English teachers. They know, for instance, that the word peruse means "to read through with thoroughness or care" and not, as many of us think, "to scan."
Hanging in my living room is a page ripped from a notebook scribbled upon by Winston Churchill. I'm a big Churchill fan. He not only helped save the world from the Nazis but was also a master of the English language, the proof of which can be found in any of his books.
The page in my living room is a back-and-forth discussion between Churchill and Sir Edward Marsh, who took Churchill's dictation. (Fun fact: Churchill often dictated in the nude.) Churchill writes, "I am most troubled by your hyphens. Here you have newly-created, long-cherished. Where on earth does this stop?" Marsh responded: "I think the hyphen is justified when the adverb and the participle coalesce into a single epithet, with the main accent on the adverb...But, altho' justified, the hyphen is not necessary, tho' there are cases when it seems to me highly desirable. To such cases I will draw special attention."
Key in the exchange between writer and copy editor is knowing when to allow the writer's opinion to prevail—grammar and punctuation be damned. In this, too, Peter and Pam show sensitivity and common sense.
In the age of blogs, some people may think copyediting is a thing of the past, a holdover. We don't believe this at Inc. Thankfully, Peter and Pam are here to remind us that a well-turned, perfectly-punctuated, grammatically-sound sentence is a thing of beauty.
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