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/.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

C'mon, AP Stylebook, fix it

That nagging little Jiminy Cricket voice of conscience in my head was asking the other day, “John, why can’t you help the AP instead of bashing the AP? Do you always have to be so critical?”

All right, all right. The current edition of the stylebook retains the asinine “no split verbs” bogus rule, but that need not be perpetual. To save the editors trouble, I’ve drafted some language they can consider for next year’s edition:

verbs The abbreviation v. is used in this book to identify the spelling of verb forms of words frequently misspelled.
SPLIT FORMS: The belief that it is an error to “split” infinitive forms of a verb (to leave, to help, etc.) or compound forms (had left, are found out, etc.) is unfounded and contrary to idiomatic English syntax. The Star Trek formula to boldly go is perfectly acceptable English. Do not resort to awkward constructions to avoid this imagined error.
Awkward: The candidate always has released the names of contributors.
Preferred: The candidate has always released the names of contributors.

And, for good measure, they can have this one:

none It means either “not one” or “not any.” In the former sense, it takes a singular verb, in the latter sense a plural. Both of these sentences are acceptable: Of the dozen entries, none was rejected by the judges. None of the entries were rejected by the judges.
If you cannot determine which nuance of meaning the writer intended, let the writer’s words stand.

Now for your part, dear readers:

The editors of the stylebook are Darrell Christian, Sally Jacobsen, and David Minthorn. You can write to them to suggest that they adopt these sensible revisions:

The Associated Press
450 W. 33rd Street
New York, NY 10001

And if you have subscribed electronically to the stylebook, you can go to “Ask the Editor” and inquire why they have retained the bogus “split-verb” rule and when they plan to abandon it. (We old-fashioned book-buying types aren’t privileged to ask snotty questions of the editors online.)

If you have been giddy with excitement about receiving the 2009 edition, as some have proclaimed themselves to be on Twitter,* imagine your feverish ecstasy when these changes appear in the 2010 edition.




*I am not making this up.