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/.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Drunk and Tight: A Sot's Guide to the Elements of Style

“Before I start to write,” said E.B.White, “I always treat myself to a nice dry Martini. Just one, to give me the courage to get started. After that, I'm on my own.”

As I read a book about White and The Elements of Style — of which much more anon — my mind turns to the principles of drink as they relate to the principles of writing and editing.

Rule 1: If you write when tight, you must edit when sober.

Rule 2: It is always five o’clock in the afternoon somewhere.

Rule 3: Do not approach the keyboard after the third bourbon.

Rule 4: Throw away that notebook at the bedside. Nothing written there will make any sense in the morning.

Rule 5: Wine with spouse, beer with fellow writers, sherry with clergy, gin with editors, whisky with publishers. Bourbon solus.

Rule 6: The publisher always pays for the drinks.

Rule 7: Omit needless ice.

I'd like to thank the Academy ...

It was announced yesterday in The Baltimore Sun’s first Mobbies awards that You Don’t Say won first place in the Misfits (miscellaneous) category.

There was no opportunity (or desire) for me to speak last night as I accepted the handsome certificate and tchotchkes, so I will express gratitude here.

Profound thanks to Pam Robinson of Words at Work, who, upon hearing of my departure from The Sun in April, rushed to set up this site so that You Don’t Say could continue with the briefest of interruptions.

But my profoundest thanks must go to the readers of this blog, whose comments and corrections and disagreements and praise have sustained me through a frustrating period of unemployment. Writing for you has brightened my days, and I am touched that so many of you find something of interest or amusement here.

The Prince of Misfits salutes you.