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/.

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.




Friday, May 6, 2016

Working at home


When fifty or so hours a week at a desk at The Sun is not enough, there is always an opportunity to work at home, perhaps at the iMac on which I write most of the posts for You Don't Say ...






or at the desk. The swivel chair is the one my grandfather, John H. McIntyre, used in his general store in Elizaville, Kentucky.


Sunday, April 17, 2016

Smugly sedentary

The end of the semester approaches, and you can begin to smell the fear. I'll be on campus this afternoon to see students who are fretting about what their grade in the editing class will be. I myself have only gone grade-begging once. 

It was my freshman year at Michigan State, and I approached a couple of my teachers to urge them to assign me the highest grade they could justify, because if I got a sufficiently high grade point average at the end of the term, I would be admitted to the Honors College and exempted from the physical education requirement. 

They did; I was. 

At Ewing Elementary School, when I was in the seventh and eighth grades, our physical education classes consisted of a series of calisthenics to a recording ("Go, you chicken fats, go!"), followed by dodge ball. The instructor, who I think had been a physical education major at Morehead State, played dodgeball gleefully, with full adult male velocity and power. He particularly delighted in nailing the bookworm, but he had to work at it. I was surprisingly nimble then. 

In my sophomore year at Fleming County High School, the teacher had it in mind that the students should learn something about anatomy and physiology in the classroom. (He didn't last.) I, of course, got grades on tests that wrecked the curve for the rest of the class and was hopeless in the gym or outdoors. Class consisted of running laps followed by miscellaneous sports, with little or no direction. It was, I think, assumed that boys all knew that stuff. 

Little or no direction also marked my one term of phys ed at Michigan State, where the graduate teaching assistant passively observed us in miscellaneous activities. We had, I recall, one day of splashing around randomly in the pool. It was at eight o'clock in the morning, too, which made the exemption from further phys ed classes the more welcome.

There was no mention of anything like a fitness program, nothing to connect whatever it was we were supposed to be doing in class to the rest of our lives. It would by nice to think that physical education classes today are a little better developed, but I haven't gone looking. 

And, as you may well imagine, these various classes did little to mitigate my lifelong distaste for jockery. 

Today, at sixty-five, I am ten to fifteen pounds overweight and mildly troubled by arthritis in my feet and knees. But my blood pressure and cholesterol levels are normal. I am on no medications. Unless my body is harboring some as yet unknown pending disaster, I should have several more good years ahead. 

I can't say that I owe that to my phys ed classes. 

Monday, April 4, 2016

Flaunting good judgment, flouting bad advice

Experienced, precise editors maintain distinctions in English usage. That is the badge of our professionalism. But not all distinctions merit our time and attention.

Did you, as I did, spend years pointlessly changing over to more than? 

Do you wince when someone says "begs the question" to mean "raises the question"?  

Are you running the gantlet or gauntlet when a writer peppers your with challenges to your edits?

On Wednesday, April 13, I will be conducting an audio course for Copyediting, "Evaluating Language Nuances: Which to Enforce and Which to Let Go." We'll go over more than two dozen traditional distinctions of usage (and you'll have an opportunity to argue with me) to sort out what the authorities say and what actual usage shows. 

By the end, you will have enough grounding to make assured and informed judgments about which distinctions to uphold and which to let go of. 

Clicking on the link above will direct you to information on signing up. I'm eager, but perhaps not anxious,  to talk with you.



Monday, December 21, 2015

Distinguishing among distinctions

I have begun work on a new workshop in which I will attempt to sort out distinctions of usage worth preserving from traditional distinctions that are no longer worth the candle.

It will focus on pairs, rather than distinctions among the senses of individual words. For example:

careen/career

comprise/compose

imply/infer

loath/loathe

(I’m not giving away in advance where I stand on any of these.)


While I have materials for a good start on the project, I would welcome your suggestions of distinctions you would like to see addressed, whether to preserve or to abandon. 

Please feel free to make suggestions in the comments here or in a private message to me at jno_mcintyre@yahoo.com.

Monday, November 30, 2015

Put an editor on your shelf



There are uses for The Old Editor Says beyond the contents of the book.

Consider its uses as the Editor on a Shelf. Place your copy of the paperback on a nearby bookshelf or on your desk. The Old Editor's minatory gaze will then be visible to the writers and editors you work with, a corrective to their impulses toward excess.

Move it about from time to time, so that they never know exactly where they will encounter it. This will keep them alert.





The Old Editor Says is readily available from Amazon.com.