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 firstname.lastname@example.org, 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/.
Monday, May 9, 2016
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 Boir statuette at upper left.
Friday, May 6, 2016
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
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
Monday, December 21, 2015
Monday, November 30, 2015
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.
Monday, August 10, 2015
I suggest a different little book: The Old Editor Says, a compendium of a career's worth of reliable maxims for every ink-stained wretch.
Favorable notices from, among other worthies, Jan Freeman at Throw Grammar From the Train, Stan Carey at Sentence First, and Steve Buttry at The Buttry Diary, have not been rescinded.
You can also listen to The Old Editor himself read selections at a Grammar Girl podcast.
The Old Editor himself is available to harangue students, writers, editors, and interested civilians, at very reasonable rates. Write to him at email@example.com
Thursday, June 18, 2015
Writers want to enliven their prose by making use of metaphors and other ornamental language. But laudable as the goal is, they are also prone to misjudgments that they have trouble recognizing without the patient assistance of an editor.
The conference will include examples from my extensive store of defective prose, and you will be invited to comment on them. Or argue with me about them, if you think that will get you anywhere.
The conference runs this coming Monday, June 22, 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. EDT, and there is still time to sign up.