Uses This

Interview

What do people use to get the job done?

Mary Norris

Mary Norris

Copy editor (The New Yorker)

Who are you, and what do you do?

My name is Mary Norris, and I am a copy editor. I work at The New Yorker, putting commas in and taking commas out. Thirty years of hard labor! I am also a writer, and no one is more surprised than I am that I got a book out of my day job. BETWEEN YOU AND ME: CONFESSIONS OF A COMMA QUEEN is a manual for copy editors cleverly disguised as a riotous personal history, studded with New Yorker anecdotes.

What hardware do you use?

I use pencils, mostly Blackwings, usually the Palomino Blackwing 602 ("Half the pressure, twice the speed"). There is a new all-black Blackwing (the 24), a white one (the Pearl), and the classic Blackwing, which has the softest lead. The pencils aren't graded by the standard American (1,2,3) system or European (HB) system, but they all glide instead of scratch. I also like the Ticonderoga Noir. I use a long-point sharpener suitable for the classroom (the Angel-5). Someone recently gave me a very classy limited-edition Caran d'Ache sharpener, which doesn't give quite as long a point as I like. I avoid mechanical pencils and electric pencil sharpeners.

I also use a Mac desktop at work and a Mac laptop at home. I am terrible at keeping the screen clean. I don't know any more about the computers than I have to know.

And what software?

Black coffee.

What would be your dream setup?

Because so much of my work is reading from a computer screen or a page proof approximately ten inches from my eyes, my ideal is a desk with a view of the ocean (preferably panoramic). I made the final revisions on my book one summer while I was commuting to work on a ferry. It was heaven. I'd grab a table inside on the upper deck, or a window seat with a flop-down tray-table, sip a cup of coffee, and copy-edit my own manuscript. It was like having a floating office with a view of New York Harbor.