Between You & Me

betweenyouandmeBetween You & Me: Confessions of a Comma Queen
Mary Norris
W. W. Norton & Company, April 6, 2015
241 pages
Kindle edition $11.49, Amazon hardcover $15.26

Between You & Me is a lot of fun for a language lover like me. However, Mary Norris, a copy editor at the New Yorker, has written a memoir cum style guide that covers a lot of territory.

I wrote last week about her defense of the serial comma. And while she writes about the hyphen, the semicolon, and the diaeresis (the two dots over the second vowel in such words as “naïve” and “reëlection,” which most of us mistakenly call an umlaut), she also gives us a some autobiography. We learn that she drove a milk delivery truck after college. She digresses from a discussion of gender in language to a recollection of the struggles that her transgender sibling faced.

Norris describes the processes used in her job and the hierarchy of dictionaries referred to in her department. (Sadly, the American Heritage was nowhere on the list.) She talks about her preference for No. 1 pencils and her frustration as they became harder and harder to find in the face of the far more popular No. 2. She writes about her relationship with her copyediting mentors and supervisors Eleanor Gould and Lu Burke.

Between You & Me is a fun and light read, but you’ll learn a few things as well.


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