Advice on copy-editing

So, I thought I was done my thesis. I even did a celebration lap around the house and poured myself a beer yesterday.

However, my thesis supervisor had nothing but bad things to say about my citation format. He had told several times to use the Chicago manual of style. Well, I’ve been carrying around this bloody thing everywhere I go for the past 4 years:

But apparently I’ve been doing it wrong. When I asked to meet with him to see what I was doing wrong, he told me that he refuses to go through it one by one with me, and simply re-iterated forcefully that I need to look at Chicago.

I looked at Chicago! I have the short book. I rented the 15th edition of the big version from the library. I’m staring down 800 pages of em-dashes and semi-colons and I want to cry. I’ve NEVER had ANYONE in all my years of undergrad and graduate ever criticize my writing or my formatting, so this feels like it’s coming out of left field. I concede it may simply be that professors marking term papers simply never cared enough to correct citations that I made, but I don’t know what I’m doing wrong.

Can anyone suggest a way for me to get out of this calamity in short order (i.e., not reading “The Chicago Manual of Style” from end to end, to find out everything I’ve been doing wrong)? A really top notch computer program? Someone at a university who will walk me through this with kid gloves? Using a Ouija board to speak to Kate Turabian?

Thanks in advance! I’m hoping the geniuses on here can save me! :slight_smile:

First of all, writing should be criticized. If it’s true that no one has “ever” criticized your writing, they’ve done you a disservice. Get over yourself on that subject. EVERY published author, judge, journalist and miscellaneous wordsmith has a copyeditor, who attacks their work liberally with a red pen. Every single one.

So, back to citation format, most of Chicago is a style manual, meaning it suggests an optimal manner for constructing your sentences. The Citation manual, I’m not terribly familiar with, but there’s a short version here:

Would you say that your citations conform as closely as is possible to the examples?

If this is your only real problem, count your blessings, because it’s an easy problem to fix, although it will be a bit tedious. If all of your conclusions and ideas were wrong, then you’d be screwed.

The examples in the link above are good, and you know they’re right, since it’s from the Chicago people themselves. What do your citations look like? If it’s not a format thing, you are pretty much going to have to see your adviser and have him (or her, I don’t know) show you one or two examples of whatever the hell they’re talking about so that you know. Hopefully, this person will have calmed down a bit in the meanwhile.

Oh absolutely. I didn’t mean to come off as a pompous ass. Beg your pardon. I should have said, however, that I was thrown off by this level of criticism which seemingly CAME out of nowhere. To go from never having serious qualms to being told that it’s “very sloppy” was a shock, yes.

Yeah, I would! Like I said, I’ve been working with that compact Writer’s guide/Chicago Manual of style for a good while, and single author/editor books I don’t even need to look up. If I had to guess, it has something to do with the things I less commonly cite, like podcasts, websites, and interviews. But even then, I’m looking at what the style book is telling me for these sources, and it looks good. It seems to follow whatever pattern is laid out in the book…

I’ve been handing him chapters throughout the year. He generally had nothing but praise for my writing style and how I’m writing. So yeah, it’s a small fix. It’s formatting. I have a crib form I use while writing; I don’t want to stop for 10 minutes to write a full citation, at the cost of putting a screeching halt to my prose.

Basically, it feels like someone has told me that my spelling is bad, but I have no spellchecker, and my only resource is a dictionary to check the words one by one. I want to cite my sources properly, but I don’t know what to look for! :frowning:

Does that make sense?

This is the way it used to be before word processing programs were invented. There was a thriving industry in typists who knew how to format. I’m sorry if I come off as unsympatehtic, but when I was a student, it was expected of us.

If you don’t feel like you can do it yourself, look for a proofreader.

Lots of people skip through college on marginal citation skills, especially if they don’t have a professor who really cracks down on them. I use MLA myself, mostly, but Chicago is certainly a valid choice. Either way, though, there’s definite rules.

Is there a writing center at your school? You might consider going to them for some pointers. Unlike your advisor, they ARE paid to help you with citation issues. Very likely they won’t edit your paper, but the center at my school would help you with the edits. My school’s center is technically for undergraduates, but I believe we don’t turn away grad students and are in fact partly staffed by them.

If your school doesn’t have one, there are online writing centers that can help as well and are surely worth a look.