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

Monday, June 29, 2009

AP Stylebook celebrates nerdity

There are two stereotypes about copy editors.

The first is that they are a group of burnt-out hacks and office failures who were shipped to internal exile on the copy desk when their incompetence became intolerable everywhere else. (And it takes a goodly load of incompetence to become intolerable at an American newspaper.)

The second, which is hardly any kinder, is that copy editors are a bunch of nerds and dweebs and dorks, obsessive-compulsives preoccupied with minute distinctions invisible to normal human beings. It’s just as well that they work at nights, because no one would invite them to a party.

I’ve spent a fair chunk of my professional career — at two daily newspapers, in workshops around the country, in two terms as president of the American Copy Editors Society — struggling to establish that my colleagues are well-educated, well-informed professional editors whose abilities demand that they be taken seriously.

And now this on Twitter from @APStylebook:

APStylebook Tweet your favorite AP style rule, and why, by Friday. We will give a subscription to Stylebook Online to the best.

Golly. Where to start?

oasis, oases

Delaware Abbreviate Del. In datelines or stories. Postal code: DE
Only Rhode Island is smaller in area. See state names.

rock ’n’ roll But Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

hold up (v.) holdup (n. and adj.)

Entering this competition is like running for mayor of Dorkopolis.

Nothing personal, AP Stylebook, but I have a dear friend and valued colleague who chortles vigorously every time I bash you. You want me to leave you alone, you can drop the idiotic split verb entry.