A Reference for the Rest of the English-speaking World.
There's the nub of my problem with this book. Two countries separated by a common language and all that. I accept a large portion of the blame for not looking a little more closely when I purchased it, but there we go -- you live and learn. We're not just talking the odd differences in spelling for a few words here and there, which I could live with, but a whole raft of different conventions concerning punctuation, grammar, style and usage. For example, Gilad's proofreading marks differ greatly from samples I've seen of marks used in Britain. I don't want to learn all that only to find out that I have to forget them all and learn another set! Her book and website references are almost exclusively American-oriented and so of limited use to us Old Worlders, too.
Then there's the tone in which this book is written. Perhaps I need to get out more but this is irritatingly upbeat about everything. Problem? Drawback? Disadvantage? Boring bit? No! You're looking at it the wrong way! It's an opportunity! It's fabulous! It's marvellous! It's just what you always wanted! This energy is tiring after a while. Reading this book feels a little like being preached at or indoctrinated into a cult. It feels uncomfortably like a self-help book. (Not that I read them.) Then there were plenty of unfamiliar phrases. What does "nix" mean? "Moxie", anyone? What is a "peanut-gallery commentary"? Is it like a coconut shy at a fairground? Can you begin a sentence with "Most every"? I also liked her suggestion that in Britain we spell 'bank' as "banque". Ye Olde Banque? I particularly liked her advice to "use commas sparingly" -- in a sentence containing unnecessary commas. Not incorrectly placed commas, just unnecessary commas. (Something she does throughout the book.) The author's very pedantic about compound modifiers, too. She stresses that they should only be used when their absence introduces ambiguity. So she proceeds to hyphenate them nearly every time.
Ah, the mistakes. It was always going to happen, wasn't it? I'm sure others have found far more. I just noticed the obvious ones (because I'm just starting to take an interest in these things). The unforgivable ones, really. Sure, they were always going to happen in the body of the text, but in worked examples!? That is just lazy. On a hand-marked 'corrected' manuscript page we see 'vacuum' left with two c's. (There are plenty of other errors -- like mixing up former and latter -- that I shan't trouble you with. Suffice it to say I made a note of them all.) On the other hand, it is encouraging to see that even pros make mistakes. But talking of worked examples -- there aren't enough of them. And my beady eye spotted that Gilad doesn't always practice what she preaches. Same again with diagrams. Not enough. I particularly would have liked them with the section about the hierarchy of the publishing industry and the anatomy of the book and magazine. Why write loads of "copy" about something that can be explained with an arrow and a small caption?
But don't let's get too negative. As an introduction to the publishing industry, and the parts that copy-editors and proofreaders play in it, this book has been very good. As a manual to get started in the business it wasn't so great. I'm now talking the talk, which is good, but still far from walking the walk. I think it deserves more than three stars, but not four. (Oh, and I'm just getting started, so there will undoubtedly be many errors in this review. I can only offer my humble apologies.)