Word nerds and punctuation perfectionists rejoice! Encounter Culture host Charlotte Jusinski ends the season in grand, grammatically correct fashion with Dr. Margaret DePond, exhibition copy editor for the New Mexico Department of Cultural Affairs. Maggie also lends her talents to El Palacio Magazine, casting a last, learned glance over every issue before it goes live.
The pair geek out over the intricacies of language, style guide rivalries, and challenges associated with distilling eons of information into 100-word captions. Buckle in for syntax shenanigans, a touch of ASMR, and permission to end sentences with a preposition.
Ever wondered who edits all the text accompanying every exhibition in the four state museums of Santa Fe (the New Mexico Museum of Art, the Museum of International Folk Art, the New Mexico History Museum, and the Museum of Indian Arts and Culture)?
The answer is Dr. Maggie DePond.
If you’ve walked by those labels and never given their precise paragraphs a second thought, you’ve Maggie to thank as well. An essential role for the largest state museum system in the country, to be sure. Interestingly, Maggie is the first person to hold the position. “I came into this job (in 2019) with not only a scholarly background but also a long experience of copy editing history and art and literature.”
The work, which is often tedious, requires a tenacious character and plenty of red pencils. “When you’re copy editing, you can be as intense and as nuanced as you want,” says Maggie of her professional balancing act.
Although copy editors adore being right (for the preservation of language, of course), her ultimate goal is to create captions that connect with museum audiences––and can do so in under a minute. “It’s absolutely more difficult to write in small word counts, but it’s more fun,” she says.
For all its old-fashioned aspects, copy editing is a revolutionary profession. Who else but a copy editor could refer to medieval usage of the singular “they/them” to support our modern personal pronoun debate? “I feel that by doing that,” Maggie says, “I’m also teaching other writers what language is, the spectrum of language, and how language can evoke feelings.” And, by extension, every lucky museum goer in the state.
Thank you for joining Encounter Culture this season. Season three coming soon!
MENTIONED IN THIS EPISODE
The Chicago Manual Of Style
Associated Press Style Guide
Elements Of Indigenous Style
Visit http://newmexicoculture.org for info about our museums, historic sites, virtual tours and more
Encounter Culture, a production of the New Mexico Department of Cultural Affairs, is produced and edited by Andrea Klunder at The Creative Impostor Studios.
Hosted by Charlotte Jusinski, Editor at El Palacio Magazine
Technical Director: Edwin R. Ruiz
Recording Engineer: Kabby at Kabby Sound Studios in Santa Fe
Executive Producer: Daniel Zillmann
Show Notes: Lisa Widder
Associate Editor: Helen King
Theme Music: D’Santi Nava