What It Is (posts below left; rate sheet, client list, other stuff below right)

My name is Bob Land. I am a full-time freelance editor and proofreader, and occasional indexer. This blog is my website.

You'll find my rate sheet and client list here, as well as musings on the life of a freelancer; editing, proofreading, and indexing concerns and issues; my ongoing battles with books and production; and the occasional personal revelation.

Feel free to contact me directly with additional questions: landondemand@gmail.com.

Thanks for visiting. Leave me a comment. Come back often.

Saturday, October 4, 2008

Ebony and ivory

It's 2 am and I should be working or asleep. The combination of the two can be dangerous. More than once while indexing I have fallen asleep with my finger on the back delete key, wiping out precious blocks of work. Live and don't learn.

Anyway, today's topic is capitalization. Chicago Manual of Style and most other guides instruct the writer/editor to lowercase "black" and "white" when referring to race. Fine. Couldn't agree more.

But I was working on a book of curriculum instruction today that uniformly uppercased Black and lowercased white.

Now, I have nothing against black people overall. I probably have a far less favorable impression of white people, just because I know so many more of them. (As Linus said, "I love humanity. It's people I can't stand.")

Class, when writing a book that addresses most of its content to the mistreatment of minorities in the United States -- perfectly obvious and true -- please don't uppercase Black and lowercase white. To me that editorial decision creates an undercurrent of race bias that undercuts the thesis.

Any disagreement?

I believe the twin blessings of Nepenthe and the god of Hypnos have finally visited. Signing out.


moi said...

Just slightly off topic, but this current trend to merrily capitalize every noun in the universe is one of my MAJOR editing pet peeves. Since when are we Germany for frig's sake?

czar said...

And slightly more off-topic. One of my clients has in their style manual: No use of "scare quotes." None. Delete them all. That'll whip an author into shape.

What does it mean when an author says, "The flag was 'red'"? It is or it isn't. If it's red, you don't need the quotes. If it's not red, come up with the word.

I've seen books that were strings of one scare-quoted term after another, interspersed with italics for emphasis. I mean, geez. If you're so insecure about your writing that you need to put flashing lights on every concept, take up house painting or something useful. I gleefully got rid of about 98 percent of the quotes and italics. But I always try to be nice and say something like, "Your writing is so good and clear that you don't need all the artificial emphases." Occasionally I am not the fascist a-hole I am portrayed to be.

moi said...

Don't you mean fascist "a-hole"?

Don said...

Back on topic, I agree black and white should be treated the same way (lowercase, thanks). But if the author is absolutely consistent, probably he or she wants it that way (for whatever asinine reason) and better to get clearance from your prod ed or whoever is in charge in-house before imposing "equality" (hey, scare quotes!) on these terms. It won't do anybody any good if he undoes all your conscientious work and gets to feel politically superior to you as a result.

czar said...


Thanks for checking in. If you saw the product and the publisher, you'd see that it's done for a very intentional reason. I'll leave it at that.

The only comment I made in the manuscript was a query in the margin stating, "If you uppercase Black throughout, you should uppercase White throughout." It's an oddity of our (really, my) reading nature that if I see "Black" uppercased, I figure it's a statement of racial pride, and if I see "White" uppercased, I presume the publisher is associated with the Aryan Nation.

Come back soon.