Earlier this year I had a paper accepted to a well-recognized journal in a particular (humanities) subfield. I finally received proofs of the article, and was (more than a bit) upset at the edits. A lot of the changes were at the sentence level: phrasing, punctuation, word choice.
These edits often 1) obscured my intended meaning (e.g. turned ONE grammatically correct sentence into TWO sentences that, because of the addition of a weird transition phrase, no longer says what I intended), and/or 2) over-simplified or diminished the prose (e.g. adding "to be" constructions, adding awkward and unnecessary "ultimately"s, "for example," etc.).
So, how should I respond? Ultimately, I'd like to have 95% of the changes reversed. I would be mortified to publish the piece in its current state.
I've published several times and never had this issue - usually edits are small (more proofreading than anything). Because I was sent PDFs, the process of sending back my "corrections" will be arduous (on some pages every sentence now needs fixing). I don't want to alienate the journal or the staff member who made the edits.