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, befriend at Facebook, or follow at Twitter: @johnemcintyre. Back 2009-2012 at the original site, and now at

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Zombie editing

Once again this morning, The Sun published an article about someone who suffered nonlife-threatening injuries.* Life-threatening is bad enough, but something severe enough to threaten nonlife — zombies, please take care — must be extraordinary.

Applying the Associated Press Stylebook’s rule — that the prefix non is not hyphenated, except when it is** — requires a little thought, a little attention, a little judgment. Supplies of those qualities appear to be running short.

*Yes, I wrote about the same construction in July. They don’t listen.

**Thank you, AP.


  1. Thanks. I needed a good laugh this morning.

  2. Mark Twain's "on-the-other-side-of-the-mountains-lying village" still awaits us.

  3. Oh, you're talking about The Sun. It's a visual thing.

  4. Reminds me of a phrase flagged by one of my colleagues on the U.S. News proof desk when I worked there: a reference to "slaughtering carcasses" at a meatpacking plant. Either the plant's workflow was inefficient and they were redundantly killing already-dead hogs, or the hogs were coming back to life and had to be killed yet again. The latter would make for a new angle on the classic zombie flick.