I'm a hillbilly, and some things that sound right to me are very, very wrong and probably come close to illiterate. :D

I'm going over my copyedited manuscript and keep coming across an editorial correction that I know is right, but I wonder if my way isn't more accepted even though it's really incorrect.

I say:

that's what he smelled

that's what he did

that's what he wanted to know

so that's how it was done

it's been changed to:

that was what he smelled
that was what he did
that was what he wanted to know
so that was how it was done

now i realize it's a tense issue, and the copy editor is correcting my mistake, but to my hillbilly ear the correction is jarring. opinions out there? (now that i read her correction here, it no longer seems that jarring.)

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Joy, thanks for your input. I've STET everything and will hopefully have the manuscript in the mail tomorrow. Kinda feels like I dodged a bullet.
Slow down, folks. I guess someone's got to defend the poor copyeditors, and since that's (sic) what I am, I shall.

First of all, I'll stipulate to the edits introducing a stilted tone. Nonetheless, if the quotes are from a third-person narrative voice, they may be acceptable. If they're dialogue, they're probably inane and fussy.

Lemme say this about that: for every instance you can cite - and I'll take the whole lot of yez on - I'll provide actual passages from mss. that will make your skin crawl. I'm trying not to use this as a launching pad for one of my rants about the state of literacy in this country today. However, I consistently find confusion - and this is in mss by widely-published authors writing for big houses - between "there" and "there" ("they're" seems to get used reasonably correctly), "its" and "it's," "which" and "that," "fewer" and "less" and virtually all of the larger minefields.

So my response, I guess, is this: stylistic matters are, in the final edit, the province of the author. But if authors were more conscientious about spelling and grammar (often, "grammer") and syntax, they'd give the editors of the world less ammunition, and less certainty of their moral ascendency. At times, authors' bitching about editors sounds a lot like patients' bitching about doctors.

I'll duck now.

bill, this is narrative.

I can say that this copyeditor has done an excellent job. I can also say i've never run into a bad copyeditor. a copyeditor saves my ass 20 times for every one odd thing, so I have no complaints. it's just trying to sort out that one odd thing. :D
Love the "Pet Taxi" mix up. You should explain to the editor that here, in rural America, we have developed very sophisticated means for transporting our wildlife. Pet Taxis, Swan Barges, Otter Rafts, Bee Bikes, and of course Camel Trains.
haha! those are all good, but i think i really like bee bikes. what a cute image. oh, i love that. i could see it as a logo.
Speaking up for copy editors (I've been one for about 15 years, in newspapers): that's is a contraction for that is or that has, according to Woe is I, one of the Bibles for copy editors. If you had used those sentences in dialogue, then as a copy editor I'd probably have left them in, because people do speak that way. I know to the ear it sounds strange, but grammatically the copy editor was right. I know, probably not what you wanted to hear ...
oh, how confusing! that was my initial feeling -- that it must not be a contraction for that was at all. either way, my narrative is basically character thought, so i'm hoping the original works for most people. I do recall one CE putting a large portion of my narrative in italics because it was one step away from direct thought. A copy editor is a one more person reading the material, and that's always a good thing. I really appreciate when a CE goes beyond the basics to point out something she didn't understand, or something I dropped too quickly without enough clarification. not all copy editors do that.
Bear in mind that the author may be talking to his audience, which would make it dialog, in a way. I go by how far the author, as a storyteller, is distancing himself. In general, a distant voice will be more formal. Talking about fiction, of course.
Forget about the editing. Just use the Redneck Dialectizer. Here's an example.

It's messy, but if you click on Dialectize and scroll down some, you'll see a fine story by one Henrietta Frasier!
i love bill cameron's blog: reckon'in wif mah hide. :D

here's my latest blog post:

post-its an' editin'
ah jest received th' copyedit fo' GOD an' ah have t'say ah doesn't knows how ah evah lived wifout Post-its.
Here's whut wawks amazin'ly fine fo' me:

ah read through th' entire manuscripp, an' eff'n ah cain't make a decishun in 60 seconds on a copyedito''s quesshun o' sumpin ah reckon needs t'be tweaked ah slap down a post-it an' move on, as enny fool kin plainly see. Once th' manuscripp is done it might corntain 150 Post-its. Th' second time through ah jest read th' flagged stuff. This hyar allers me t'completely focus on th' problem, dawgone it. ah can usually make a decishun in less than a minute, an' is able t'remove th' sticker. Eff'n not, ah leave it an' by th' time ah's finished wif thet roun' ah usually haf aroun' 20 Post-its lef'. Repeat th' previous trick an' thet usually takes care of them all, ah reckon. I've used this hyar method fo' th' last three books an' ah's still amazed by how fine it wawks.

I've also had this hyar copyedito' befo'e an' she's excellent. Wif some copyedito's yo' might spend a lot of time tryin' t'decide eff'n sumpin is wo'th fightin' fo', but thar's none of thet gwine on hyar, which makes th' process purdy painless.

oh, I've added a link t'th' previous post in case ennybody be hankerin' t'watch th' video about th' li'l pop-up trailers.
It's addictive, isn't it? I remembered it because I put a story of mine through it once.
Hey Anne, I read this thread and have to agree with all the good advice you were given. Everyone is right on the mark. You used the correct contraction for "that was" and “that is.”

Something else to consider is the character's voice.

Speech is a key component of characterization. While some characters (and most people) use contractions, if you may want to depict another character as having a more formal form of speech, you wouldn’t use contractions.

I have two characters in my book who say "ya" instead of "you" and drop the "g" from “ing” words such as, somethin', wantin', doin', etc. Whatever you decide for your characters' speech is fine as long as you are consistent.



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