Sunday, 11 September 2011

The grocer's apostrophe

Friday - sadly my last day at THE offices. One of the editors gleefully announced to the office that she'd found a "grocer's apostrophe" (a term unfamiliar to me) in a press release from an organisation closely connected with academia - in this case a possessive its written it's, although (green) grocers of course are well known for rogue apostrophes in apple's, pear's etc. Accuracy and consistency in language is of course key for any publication - they have a lengthy style guide here*, and at least some academics could spot a grocer's apostrophe a mile off.

Having asked to learn more about sub-editing, I was pleased to be given a book review to check (written by a guest academic) - more for grammar, punctuation and typos than 'style' which belongs to the author (the piece had already been 'fact checked'). It was surprisingly intense work. I did find a few minor things, including "Opus Dei" mid-sentence which should have been "opus Dei", though I had to check that in the OED. Later, after tidying up two more articles I'd been writing, I was given another sub challenge:
Heading here heading
here heading here
Standfirst standfirst here please
by A N Other standfirst

- the actual book title and details were given further down after the cover picture. There is rule here that you are not allowed to use any words in the book title, which made it quite a challenge as the title was very long, and included words central to the book for which there really are no simple synonyms. I was quite pleased with my final suggestions however, which were of course completely different from those of the professional, and await with interest to see what appears in print. At 6 o'clock I checked my last proof, and sadly left Red Lion Square at the end of my London placement, though looking forward to the Science Festival in Bradford starting for us on Sunday. I hope to see some of my work in forthcoming editions of Times Higher.

* Another unfamiliar term was the Oxford comma, typically when placed in a list before and,  as in "Tom, Dick, and Harry" but generally omitted in British English (except presumably in Oxford) - see Wikipedia.

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