In the midst of reviewing, editing, and revising, one reads. Sometimes further afield than others. Malaprop’s (www.malaprops.com) is amazing in many respects, not least for the writers who flow through. Friday is Yann Martel (The Life of Pi). I missed, but deliberately (why?), Elizabeth Gilbert when she came through town. Tonight we listened to Malcolm Jones, long-time editor with Newsweek, read from his captivating memoir of growing up Southern and trying to figure it out. He was introduced by Elizabeth Kostova (The Historian, The Swan Thieves). The other week was Ron Rash (Serena), a local writer who teaches at Western Carolina, a ways over in the Smokies. I love this place.
Right. Right. Hayfoot, strawfoot, raw from the country, skip by jingo, left, left. Left my wife and forty-‘leven kids, an old gray mare, and a peanut stand. Did I do right? Right. Right …
This on finishing a 615-page (155,000-word) manuscript well enough written that I spent the vast majority of my time untangling nine uniquely disasterous sets of citations, endnotes, and reference lists. Memories of accounting work for the finance and accounting branch of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in Frankfurt-am-Main roll out from the corners of thirty years ago. Right brain, left brain. The twain alas meet in editorial work, certainly at the bottlewasher grade. Details details. Consistency. To what avail?
Twenty-files now uploaded to my server, waiting for a client to retrieve them. Haven’t written client. I know perfectly well that I simply must compare all the reference lists against each other to be certain that shared entries are identical.
The topic of whether to use a hyphen for health care as an adjective is endlessly debated, for fair reason. Leaving off the word care, however, is scarcely a viable option. Health-care reform. Health reform.
If we were reforming health, no one would be at risk (as a colleague observed) for diabetes, heart disease, or hypercholesterolemia. Even for anything as mundane as arthritis, psoriasis, eczema, or plantar fasciitis, to strike a more mundane note.
Brevity is one thing, but common sense trumps. As Hattie McDaniels (leaning out the window in Gone With the Wind) said some time back, “It jes’ ain’t fittin’.” Nearly 80 years later, it still ain’t.
It may rile the editors of this manuscript, and the various authors of the various chapters, but every instance of health reform is getting changed to health-care reform. I think. At the moment.
Mercifully, all edits are suggestions. The authors can, if they don’t like it, change it back. I may do so myself before I submit the manuscript, for that matter.
The lingering question, of course, is the important one. Is the usage here to stay? It looks likely. Alas.