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/.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

A motto for the Internet age

Foreseen in the 18th century by Lord Chesterfield:

Let blockheads read what blockheads write.

4 comments:

  1. There is a quote that I can't find that says something like the opposite of good writing used to be bad writing, but now it's just typing.

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  2. In Edinburgh around the same time, the Scottish judge Lord Kames asked his colleage Lord Monboddo if he had read Kames's latest book.

    "No, my Lord," said Monboddo; "you write a great deal faster than I am able to read."

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  3. John,
    I read your "blockheads" one-liner this morning and walked away with a shake-of-the-head chuckle. How pathetically true. Then I decided to take advantage of a rainy afternoon and sort through old paperwork. Pure drudgery. Every once in a while, though, I find a pearl in the mess of old receipts and statements. It happened when I dug out of the bottom of the basket a Sun column dated Dec. 1, 1990, in which you wrote about the old family tobacco barn and your aging (aren't we all?) mother. I remembered that I had found the clipped-out piece between the pages of one of my mother's books after she died in 1995. One line in particular speaks to the soul of us beleaguered newsfolk: "Choices have been made, for good or ill, not to be made again."

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  4. As a long-time lurker and fan at the original You Don't Say, and a fellow toiler in our ailing industry, may I too add my belated commiserations over recent events?

    And, although it might be a bit early to be stirring the whole Wikipedia-debate pot again, I thought you might be interested in this, published in today's Guardian. The words "chill" and "spine" come to mind.

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2009/may/04/journalism-obituaries-shane-fitzgerald

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