Free short story added to FreeStuff page; + a copy-editing question: ‘Mrs’, ‘Mrs.’ or ‘Missus’?

Just uploaded a slightly revamped ‘Leave it to Bertie’ to the FreeStuff page. I hope people enjoy the read.

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While having a necessary last mess-around with it, to avoid the possibility of being sued by Bertelsmann Music Group for reproduction of song lyrics, I noticed something that highlights why an author should pay, or perhaps not pay, a copy editor. I had been writing ‘Mister’ in dialogue, but then when it came to the female version I was stumped as to how to write it. I don’t mind Mrs (or Mrs.) in the body of the narrative but I don’t like it in dialogue. I like ‘Missus’, which feels very British to me – I can’t imagine an American using this spelling – but it does look slightly incongruous in dialogue. When used as a noun, a husband referring to his wife as ‘the missus’, it conveys to me a picture of a man socialising with his fellow men, painting himself as hen-pecked, yet silently treasuring her. Handled well I think the irony can be quite touching.

Consulting the internet though, I noted a wave of anti-Missus feeling. One thing I did decide to pay heed to was the advice to be consistent: don’t use ‘Mister’ and ‘Mrs’. In the end I checked in a novel written by an author who has probably sold millions of copies of books, and found ‘Mister’, ‘Mrs’ and ‘Dr’ within the dialogue, so no consistency, either because the editor hadn’t thought about it, or hadn’t spotted it, or didn’t think there was any value in aligning them all.

I then had to decide between ‘Mr’ and ‘Mr.’ (and equivalents). At school we were taught these abbreviations carried full stops. The American English has retained these, I believe, while the ‘.’ of British saints, doctors and misters have all been surgically removed, like daemons from the shoulders of their humans (sorry, been reading ‘Northern Lights’). Not particularly comfortable with operating on my punctuation without anaesthetic, I decided to chop them nevertheless, to make it look as though I am keeping up with the times.

With the decision still to be made over whether I get someone else to copy-edit my novel manuscript before publication, it was both a timely reminder that I can miss errors or inconsistencies in my own writing, yet also that experienced paid professionals working for reputable traditional publishing houses can too. With a tight budget to say the least, I feel very reluctant to hand money over for this particular task, even though general advice seems to be that this is one of the very few things that a self-publisher absolutely should pay for. The problem with general advice, though, is that it has to cover the worst case scenario, lowest common denominator, frame it how you will. I am feeling, if not sounding, quite resolute on this at the moment. I have to consider that there is a not insubstantial risk that someone will end up making more money than myself from my novel, simply for spotting (or even not spotting) a few comma splices that let’s face it, unless you’re a copy-editor yourself reading my book, you’re probably going to breeze right past without even noticing.

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Bon weekend (Or is bonne? Oh God give me strength…

[Edit – ggrr, keep forgetting to add tags, sorry if you get this twice]

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One thought on “Free short story added to FreeStuff page; + a copy-editing question: ‘Mrs’, ‘Mrs.’ or ‘Missus’?

  1. My version of the postage stamp experiment!….Your findings are correct. In UK/British copy-editing rules (from Judith Butcher, Cambridge) it is understood that full points are omitted after contractions (abbreviations that include the first and last letter of the singular) for example Mr, Dr, St.

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