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, February 25, 2010

Pulp Diction 3: The wider web


“What happened to this place?”

I whirled around. “Fogarty! I told you to stay out.”

The Old Copy Editor said, “Fogarty? Mignon Fogarty? Great Fowler’s Ghost, is this Grammar Girl herself?”

“Yeah,” I said, “minus the cape and the winged boots.”

“Could I have your autograph, Ms. Fogarty? On my copy of The Grammar Devotional?”

“We’ve got more important things to do,” I said. She didn’t listen. She never listens.

“Why, certainly,” she said, whipping out a pen faster than the Earp boys slapped leather at the O.K. Corral. “But tell me, what happened to this place?”

“Well,” the Old Copy Editor said, “with nobody going into print journalism anymore, they ran out of unpaid interns, and then they couldn’t generate enough copy to fill as much as six pages. They tried to sell the building, but even the state penitentiary system turned them down. Plan to turn the printing plant into luxury waterfront condos went bust, too. They offered up the computer equipment, but it was so old and broken down from lack of maintenance that even the Third World wouldn’t touch it.

“But the worst was, they lost the Web. They cheesed off the funeral directors — tried  to jack up the prices for the death notices on the Web, and the funeral directors set up their own obituary Web site. Turns out the obits were the only things of ours anyone still read. Web traffic dropped to a couple of dozen hits a day, and the Scavenger Group abandoned the whole shebang. One day, everybody just left.”

“Fogarty!” I yelled. “Enough! You have to look at this.” I shoved the VERBS entry at her, and her big brown eyes widened.

“This is big,” she said, “bigger than just the Peevers.”

“Damn straight,” I said.

“Look,” she said, her broad brow furrowing. “Did you see? There are pinpricks under other letters.”

“What? Let me look.”

She was right:

“The abbreviation v. is used in this book to identify the spelling of the verb forms of words frequently misspelled.

“SPLIT FORMS: In general, avoid awkward constructions that split infinitive forms of a verb. ...” 

mensa

“You know what this means?” she asked.

“It means the conspiracy is broader than anyone could have imagined. It’s big, all right. The AP itself. The Peevers. The self-appointed language authorities. The Illuminati. And now the aristocrats of the multiple-choice test. They’re all in on it. Wouldn’t surprise me if they’ve recruited the Myers-Briggsians, too — they’ll fall for anything. And it’s all coded in the AP Stylebook. You see what we have to do now?”

“You mean ...”

“Yes, sister. We’ve got to break into AP Stylebook Headquarters. Fast.”


Next: The dark tower




9 comments:

  1. Who needs Dan Brown and his Robert Langdon? I can't wait for the next excerpt!

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  2. At the risk of being labeled an interloper, i believe this is an installment rather than an excerpt.
    But I am a photographer rather than writer, so I believe my opinion may be suspect.

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  3. It has a Limony Snicket quality about it. Perhaps Jim Carey could play the lead.

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  4. Lemony? This blog ain't lemony, doll. It reeks of gin and olives--precisely what makes it great.

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  5. Thanks, Anon. I suspect that you are correct. A serial work is published in installments; however, an excerpt is a portion taken from the whole. I guess I was visualizing the bigger picture rather than focusing on the discreet detail. Thank you again for the re-frame.

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  6. Gripping! Can't wait for the next episode. Is "the headquarters" at the Watergate?

    (Check out my new format at www.jedword.com)

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  7. Part-II - the reason I made an anonymous post is because I pushed send before I worked out how to add Dave Prelosky to the header. I still haven't.

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  8. I thought Martha Brockenbrough was still on ice.

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