Having just finished an edit for a valued client, I am aware of the fact that my status as editor (educator, parent, grandparent, writer, etc.) has inherent limits. While it might be desirable or liberating to see ourselves as limitless, I submit that being cognizant of our limits is substantially more productive than spending time denying them.
Here’s a good example. My son and I passionately differ about the use of the serial (Oxford) comma. For those who aren’t familiar, it’s the final comma in a series of words. My version is: red, white and blue. Serial comma is: red, white, and blue.
In the case of my client, she had used the serial comma at least twice in a seven-page document. Because I believe it to be unnecessary, I deleted it and she noticed the deletion once, adding it back into her revisions.
Is it my right and responsibility to remove them or is it her right as a client to maintain them? The good answer is both. Because there is no specific mandate for eliminating the serial comma in order to create a “correct” document, it is entirely at the discretion of the author to mandate its use. If I believed that my client felt strongly about the inclusion of it, I would have deferred to her. But because she relies on me for the best available product, my decision prevailed.
We have numerous manuals for determining style. Consequently, the definition of correctness becomes increasingly blurry. But as always, good sense and discretion have priority.
Another of my clients has included the words, “with that said,” “so,” “at the end of the day,” “worst case scenario” and other obliterations of taste in his book that it is my pleasure and privilege to edit. Do my limits necessitate leaving them as is? Technically, I am not the Style Monitor in charge of what is acceptable language or format and what is not.
My guess is that understanding these limits is equal to understanding what I can or should do or not do in my other roles. Maybe this is a good reminder for those who object to the exercise of free speech by others. You may have the right to say exactly what you believe but it’s my right to disagree or listen to anything else. Shalom.