Karen Yin is a full-time freelancer who has been writing and editing professionally since 1992. She founded AP vs. Chicago and Conscious Style Guide and writes the style column for Copyediting newsletter.
What path did you take into editing, Karen?
I started doing it one day and haven’t been able to stop. It wasn’t even a conscious decision. It’s as though I offered to tuck someone’s shirt tag in and ended up tucking tags in for the next twenty-some years. It was at my first grown-up job after college — assistant to the exec who oversaw publications at a trade association — and I let it slip that I noticed a typo, then bam, I became an editor. Who knew that people would pay me for pointing out errors? Does anyone want to pay me for drinking water? Luckily, it turned out to be a remarkable fit for my personality and the way my brain is wired.
How did your 17 years at entertainment advertising agencies influence your editing?
It was interesting to edit in an environment where the people making the calls knew nothing about grammar. When I pointed out the comma in “A Suspenseful, Thriller,” the account executive told me, “The client approved it that way.” I have 17 years’ worth of stories, equally fun. These were all lessons in prioritizing, being flexible, and knowing when to push. My motto was “If you don’t care, I don’t care.” In other words, I aligned myself with their values, and as a result, I thrived. If you don’t have the stomach for it, I don’t recommend going into the advertising industry.
I think your AP vs. Chicago blog was my first exposure to your work, and you have since created the Conscious Style Guide — both excellent resources for the editing community. How did those projects develop?
When I started AP vs. Chicago, I was working on high-profile campaigns for studios such as Disney, Fox, and DreamWorks. The pressure had been tremendous since day one, and at that point I had been doing it for 15 years. I turned to blogging to de-stress, maybe find a little community. Also, I loved analyzing, comparing, making lists. A lot of readers comment on the humor, so I think that the informal tone distinguished my blog from the oh-so-serious language websites. And my blog did help me connect with our awesome online editing community, so yay!
That year, I had the idea for a website devoted to conscious language — my term for mindful, compassionate, inclusive language — but I didn’t have the space in my life to launch Conscious Style Guide till February. The response has been amazing, and readers of the newsletter send such nice notes. I’m working on the style guide portion of the site, which makes my inner lexicographer happy, and I hope to publish it by year-end. If you’d like to write an article or become a sponsor, get in touch with me at [email protected].
What fortune-cookie-size advice would you give other editors?
Observe language without resentment.
Pet peeves are cute, but they grow into monsters.
If you were a punctuation mark, which one would you be and why?
The slash. It’s criticized for being improper, yet it does a more efficient job than the word or punctuation it replaces. Plus, it has a multitude of nerdy applications.
Describe the Hollywood adaptation of your story.
It will be a spoof of Fight Club, called Edit Club, and the person editing my copy will turn out to be me. Horrifying.
Chilling and hilarious. Thanks, Karen!
Find more of Karen and her stylish freelancing world in the Copyediting newsletter and on LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter @karenyin. AP vs Chicago and Conscious Style Guide are also on a social media platform near you; links can be found on the websites.