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/.

Sunday, February 28, 2010

Directing your attention elsewhere

If you found snowpocalypse, smowmageddon, and other neologisms more tiresome even than the recent winter storms, take heart from Bryan Garner’s “On Language” column in The New York Times. Such portmanteau words come into the language frequently. Some stick, but many don’t. Spring is near, and by then there will be other linguistic excesses to annoy you. (Just turn on local TV news.)

By coincidence, the Dallas Morning News has just run a feature on Mr. Garner, the Reasonable Prescriptivist, whose work has frequently been praised in these quarters. (Take that, AP Stylebook; I’ll split a verb phrase whenever I damn please.)

Another able writer, Craig Silverman, who maintains the Regret the Error site, has an article in the Columbia Journalism Review on plagiarism and how to forestall it and detect it. Worth keeping a copy on hand.

I am particularly happy to report that, according to Stan Carey, there is no reason for prescriptivists and descriptivists to be at war, since, properly considered, each camp partakes of qualities of the other.

 Today is the last day to take advantage of the early-bird registration for the American Copy Editors Society’s national conference in Philadelphia this April. If you’re serious about editing, you ought to make an effort to be there. And if do, I will be happy to see you there.

National Grammar Day is coming up this week. Check out the Web site, and be sure to check out You Don’t Say on the day itself for the thrilling conclusion to “Pulp Diction,” this year’s grammar noir serial.