A note from Raymond Chandler to an editor at The Atlantic illustrates the perils of copy editing

The job of a copy editor must be miserable. I dont’ know this from experience—we don’t have a copy editor, as you may have noticed. But one can imagine. Even low-level writers generally don’t like their style choices “corrected,” but get embarrassed and angry if an error is published under his or her name.

Being a copy editor for a famous author at a well-respected publication, however, sounds downright terrifying, especially after reading this letter Raymond Chandler wrote to his editor at The Atlantic regarding his copy editors’ decision to rejoin some split infinitives:

By the way, would you convey my compliments to the purist who reads your proofs and tell him or her that I write in a sort of broken-down patois which is something like the way a Swiss waiter talks, and that when I split an infinitive, God damn it, I split it so it will stay split, and when I interrupt the velvety smoothness of my more or less literate syntax with a few sudden words of barroom vernacular, this is done with the eyes wide open and the mind relaxed but attentive. The method may not be perfect, but it is all I have. I think your proofreader is kindly attempting to steady me on my feet, but much as I appreciate the solicitude, I am really able to steer a fairly clear course, provided I get both sidewalks and the street between.


He also wrote a long, amusing poem called “Lines to a Lady With an Unsplit Infinitive.” View the whole letter and poem over at Letters of Note.

(via Flavorwire)