John McIntyre, whom James Wolcott calls "the Dave Brubeck of the art and craft of copy editing," writes on language, editing, journalism, and random topics. Identifying his errors relieves him of the burden of omniscience. Write to, befriend at Facebook, or follow at Twitter: @johnemcintyre. The original site,, at, and now at

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Teach your children well

Mem Fox, teacher and writer of children’s books, says this about her twin vocations in Radical Reflections:

Those who write well have more power and therefore have more control over their lives. ... [T]he granting of this power to our children is politically and socially essential. In the end they must be able to spell and punctuate; they’re powerless without these skills. Their power won’t come about without practice, and the practice can’t come about without purpose.


  1. John, this is a combination of question and comment, posted on this day's entry because I don't see any other appropriate place to post it, and I can't figure out how to e-mail you privately with such a topic. (Do I need a Blogger account to e-mail other Blogger account holders?)

    It occurs to me that postscripts may have become obsolete. I guess when parchment was expensive and one had an afterthought, one's choices were to trash an expensive mistake and start over, hold the afterthought, or add a postscript. Even in the days of typewriter and carbon paper, it may not have been expensive but it sure was a pain in the neck to start over. In today's world of paperless communication, there seems to be no need to add a P.S., since if one has an afterthought, one simply edits the body of the text before clicking 'send.'

    I find myself adding postscripts in e-mails often, as my mind is always flooded with rivulets of thought, and a few weeks ago realized it wasn't necessary. Maybe I'm just late to this realization. What do you think? Should we say kaddish for the postscript? If nothing else, it certainly would eliminate the awful P.S.S. instead of P.P.S.

  2. I'd say the postscript is entirely what it always ways to some degree, a stylistic device for conveying the appearance of offhandedness. "P.S. Can you let me have $10,000 for a few weeks?"

  3. Well, I feel stupid for not noticing John's e-mail at the top of the home page, but had I contacted him directly, I wouldn't have had the pleasure of John C.'s pithy comment. Thanks for the chuckle on a rainy (at least in North Carolina, where I am this week) Monday.

  4. Don't beat yourself up. I added the e-mail address after reading your comment.