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 22, 2009

Said who?

Is this a new tic of New Yorker style, or have I just begun noticing it?

“Horton, you’re one of the few people New York seems to agree with,” Tennessee Williams, another regional Young Turk who dreamed of changing the shape of commercial theatre, said.

I know that there is a longstanding journalistic resistance to inverting subject and verb in attribution, and indeed the “said he” construction would quickly grow tedious. But still, in a quotation followed by an attribution succeeded by an appositive phrase, do you really want to end the sentence with an anticlimactic said? Would it kill you to write, said Tennessee Williams and allow the sentence to end with a little more weight? Can’t you see that you are driving me into a series of rhetorical questions? Will you please stop?