You Don't Say

John McIntyre, whom James Wolcott calls "the Dave Brubeck of the art and craft of copy editing," writes on language, editing, journalism, and other manifestations of human frailty. Comments welcome. Identifying his errors relieves him of the burden of omniscience. Write to jemcintyre@gmail.com, befriend at Facebook, or follow at Twitter: @johnemcintyre. Back 2009-2012 at the original site, http://weblogs.baltimoresun.com/news/mcintyre/blog/ and now at www.baltimoresun.com/news/language-blog/.

Friday, December 9, 2016

The late Mr. Saunders

We said goodbye to Saunders this morning.

A trip to the veterinarian on Wednesday yielded this information: He was suffering from a fever, he was seriously anemic, he had feline leukemia, and the prognosis was not good.

Kathleen and I made the painful decision that we did not want to prolong his suffering. So we brought him home and spent the day yesterday giving him treats, stroking him, speaking to him with affection, indulging his wishes, and saying farewell. This morning we took him to the Aardmore Veterinary Hospital, where he was gently put beyond the reach of pain.

You may recall from earlier posts that he showed up two years ago, an abandoned, hungry stray who immediately sized us up as easy marks. We fed him, we took him in, we got him treated by the vet, and we made him part of the household.

He remained determinedly indoor-outdoor, patrolling the neighborhood as if he were its mayor, paying visits to other households and depositing the occasional mouse (and sometimes a young rat) on our front sidewalk. He went out in the rain and the cold, and he gamboled in his first snowfall.

He was a handsome orange cat, quickly growing into those big paws we noticed on his arrival. And he was ever an affectionate cat, the sweetest-tempered cat, who purred loudly every time I picked him up. His presence in the bay window comforted and calmed us, and, like a dog, he came to greet me when I arrived home at night after work.


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But now he is gone, and I will think of him always as serenely dozing on his chair on the porch, savoring the sunlight and the fragrant breeze, the sweet, sweet stray who for two all-too-short years with us had food, shelter, love.



Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Time goes by

It was on October 23-25, 1997, that the American Copy Editors Society conducted its first national conference, at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. I was there.

These photos, which recently surfaced in a folder deep in a file cabinet, were from the workshop I conducted there at the invitation of Pam Robinson.




"Getting Back to the Word," on issues of English usage, used material I had developed for staff workshops at The Baltimore Sun and from our in-house newsletter on writing and editing, Publish and Be Damned.



My participation in ACES had been encouraged by The Sun's publisher, Mike Waller, himself a former copy editor, and by John Carroll, the editor. When demand came for me to present this workshop, and others on writing and editing, their encouragement continued. I have presented "Getting Back to the Word" at other national ACES conferences and at publications around the United States.





Over the nineteen years since, as I have come to examine the things about English usage that I had been taught, looking at evidence in Bryan Garner's four edition of his usage manual, at the evidence presented by lexicographers and linguists about usage, and at the evidence of my own eyes,  the advice in that workshop has undergone revision.




Saturday, October 1, 2016

My bully is dead

Though I allowed my subscription to the Flemingsburg Gazette, the paper I worked for in high school and college, to lapse, I still occasionally check the Independent-Ledger in Maysville. Given that I have been away for more than forty years, I mainly scan the obituaries. 

A few weeks ago, there he was, the bane of my life in the third and fourth grades, my principal bully. I was a skinny bookworm and teacher's pet. He was bigger, more muscular, a halting student at best, and he was seldom at his best. He enjoyed tormenting me. 

Now he is dead, an old guy, like me, apparently mourned by his daughters. 

I don't visualize him as an adult with children. He is fixed in my head as he was then. The subsequent fifty-five years don't signify. (I will not describe him further, because he has children who mourn him.) 

There is the problem. He is fixed in my head. 

He, and the subordinate bullies who sometimes chimed in, established in my mind that I am someone to be bullied, someone who lacks power, someone with no recourse. My parents and teachers knew that I felt bullied, but they were at a loss to do anything beyond allowing the children to work it out on their own. 

My bully, to my astonishment, metamorphosed into adult for whom someone could bear affection. I, in turn, metamorphosed into an adult with a family, a profession, a reputation, a standing. 

But I am also someone who typically shies away from conflict and confrontation, because I was thoroughly programmed early on to see myself as unable to prevail in such circumstances.

Sixty-five years old, and I could still use some work. 




Friday, September 30, 2016

As you make your plans for this weekend ...

please recall that The Old Editor plans to be at Ryan's Daughter in Belvedere Square around five o'clock Sunday afternoon for a pint or two of Smithwick's and conversation with any readers of the blog (or viewers of the videos) who care to show up. 

Surely you don't think that it's wholesome for him to drink alone. 

Sunday, September 25, 2016

The Old Editor's thirst

It appears that I will be dangerously at loose ends a week from today, Sunday, October 2. If any of my readers fancy a pint with The Old Editor, I plan to be at Ryan's Daughter, 600 East Belvedere Avenue in Belvedere Square, around five o'clock. I will be the gray-haired gentleman nursing a glass of Smithwick's at the bar. You will be a reader looking for a quiet interval to chat at leisure. 

Saturday, August 13, 2016

Make sure your bright-eyed scholar is properly outfitted

With the imminent start of the school year, you have been supplying your young charges with all the kit they will need: a full spectrum of gel pens, notebooks full of inviting blank pages, dozens of apps for laptops, tablets, and iPads.

And if your bright-eyed scholar aspires to be a writer, you may also have thrown in a copy of Strunk and White.


Well, mistakes are made. But they can be corrected. 

At Amazon.com you can find, for an exceedingly modest price, The Old Editor Says, a pithy compilation of invaluable advice about writing and editing. Grammar Girl loved it, and your embryo Scott Fitzgerald or Max Perkins will benefit enormously.

Operators are standing by. 





Sunday, August 7, 2016

Advice for an election year

From The Vanity of Dogmatizing (1661) by the Rev. Joseph Glanvill:

"They that have never peep't beyond the common belief in which their easier understandings were at first indoctrinated, are indubitabely assur'd of the Truth, and comparative excellence of their receptions, while the larger Souls, that have travail'd the divers Climates of Opinions, are more cautious in their resolves, and more sparing to determine."

Thursday, July 14, 2016

Here comes the sun

This morning, after weeks of inquiry, estimates, inspections, construction, further inspections, paperwork, and appointments, Kathleen and I threw the switches to turn on the solar panels that Solar City has installed on our roof. 

This afternoon, as the sun heats up Baltimore to a muggy ninety-five degrees, it will also be running the fan on our air conditioner. 

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Summer is for porch sitting



I long to imitate the fine example that Mr. Saunders has set for us all.


Monday, May 9, 2016

Workaday world

Last week, in a spasm of vanity, I posted photographs of my desks at home. Today, to complete the circle, my office and cubicle at The Baltimore Sun:





The office I have occupied since 2000 (one year excepted).





My cubicle at the news desk/copy desk. I regret that the monitor blocks half of the rubber chicken and that I carelessly cut of the top of the Guy Noir statuette at upper left.