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, October 24, 2009

Weekends are for catching up

Item: While the actual Associated Press Stylebook is unintentionally hilarious, FakeAPStylebook on Twitter is a hoot and a half. Some examples:

The numbers one through ten should be spelled out while numbers greater than ten are products of the Illuminati and should be avoided.

Do not change weight of gorilla in phrase, “800-lb gorilla in the room.” Correct weight is 800 lbs. DO NOT CHANGE GORILLA'S WEIGHT!

There is no such thing as an “Oxford comma.” The other guys in the newsroom are pranking you.

While it's tempting to call them “baristi” because of the Italian roots, the plural of “barista” is “journalism majors.”

Item: If you are concerned about potential dangers of vaccines, Steve Silberman of Wired has provides a link to a useful, fact-based article on the subject, with copious references to the science. The comments on an article in Wired by Amy Wallace on fear and panic over vaccines demonstrate how quickly public discussion devolves into shouting and personal abuse.

As with the AP Stylebook, many of these comments career into unintended hilarity.

Item: has forwarded a link to its list of the top ten plagiarism scandals. It says “of all time” but is in fact limited to those, mainly in journalism, of recent history.

For a longer view, take, for example, the passage in Tristram Shandy denouncing plagiarism: “Shall we forever make new books, as apothecaries make new mixtures, by pouring only out of one vessel into another? Are we forever to be twisting and untwisting the same rope?” This passage, your eighteenth-century professor would have pointed out with a dry, donnish chuckle, Sterne lifted from Burton’s Anatomy of Melancholy. Thus we see the difference between the amateur cut-and-paster and an inspired pro.

Thomas Mallon’s Stolen Words is a fine study of plagiarism, mainly the literary kind.

Item: I should have been reminding you about GoodSearch, a search engine powered by Yahoo that pays a small sum to the good cause of your choice for each search you make there. My GoodSearch is set to the American Copy Editors Society Education Fund, which provides scholarships to promising students who seek a career as editors. Every search I perform there brings a penny to the fund, and if you, my beloved readers, would also participate, we could over time aggregate a tidy sum. I urge you to try it.


If a reader of this blog should order a copy of Stolen Words from by clicking on the link below, I will eventually receive a minuscule portion of the proceeds.


  1. I work at a college newspaper. We saw the "baristi" tweet yesterday and had a good laugh. Then we collectively sighed.

  2. FakeAPStylebook has been cracking me up all week. One of its updates prompted a quip from the Encyclopaedia Britannica, which was a rather surreal moment. The official APStylebook, meanwhile, has mercifully stopped its vanity retweets.

    Thank you for bringing GoodSearch to my attention.

  3. FakeAPStylebook is amazing. Found it on Bill Walsh's The Slot blog and have been following it ever since.