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/.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Mr. Carey's compliments to The Old Editor

Our favorite Irish blogger, Stan Carey of Sentence first, has reviewed The Old Editor Says in a characteristically generous-spirited post.

"The prose is clear, concise, measured, and filled with sound guidance," he says. He calls it "a useful and original book that is also a pleasure to read," and he commends it to all in the writing and editing trade. It will, he promises, "satisfy, gratify, and edify."


In print





Or Kindle










Wednesday, March 20, 2013

The Old Editor's voice

You want to know about The Old Editor's advice, dead hogs' asses, and cutting the Lord's Prayer? Go to the Maryland Morning website and listen to the recordings of my latest chat with Sheilah Kast.

Then this evening you can drop by the Apprentice House spring launch of its new titles, The Old Editor Says among them, with the Old Editor on hand, in person.

Monday, March 18, 2013

Events this week

Boy, can I whomp up a gripping SEO headline.

On Wednesday:

Between 9:15 and 9:30 a.m. (Eastern daylight time) on WYPR-FM, 88.1, my interview with Sheilah Kast on Maryland Morning will be broadcast. If you are unable to listen,  check the Maryland Morning website later in the day for a link to the recording.

Also on Wednesday, Apprentice House, the student-operated publishing operation at Loyola University Maryland,  will conduct its spring launch reception for the ten new print books and fifteen new e-books in its catalog. The Old Editor Says is one of the books being featured, and The Old Editor will be present in person.

The event runs 6:30 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. in the third-floor Reading Room of the Andrew White Student Center on the Loyola campus. Do drop by if you are able; "light fare" is promised.




Saturday, March 16, 2013

Good for what ails you

Reactions to The Old Editor Says are coming in, and they are overwhelmingly positive, and sometimes surprising. It is more than just a suitable gift for that aspiring writer or soon-to-graduate student. 

Travelers have discovered that taking The Old Editor Says along, either in print or Kindle form, has an effect something like an amulet, warding off delayed flights, missed connections, and lost luggage.

In a spate of testimonials, readers explain that they have found The Old Editor Says efficacious with warts, gout, rheumatism, gallstones, fretfulness, grippe, quinsy, debility, melancholia, indigestion, ague, vertigo, catarrh, and female complaint. Also cures insomnia.

This is a book that you cannot afford to be without. Click on one of the links below to order this sovereign panacea.

Buy a second copy if you have a child who is teething.


For print:



For Kindle:




Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Time is short

There is still time, if you are nimble, to sign up for Thursday"s Copyediting audio conference, "Choosing Your Battles." Operators are standing by.  And if there is an aspect of the subject that you would like me to discuss, you are welcome to file a comment or send me a note.

Next week's coming attraction: I recorded an interview today with Sheilah Kast of WYPR's Maryland Morning that will be broadcast a week from today, March 19, between 9:15 a.m. and 9:30 a.m. at 88.1 FM. Later that day, a recording of the interview, plus some supplemental material, will be made available on the Maryland Morning website.


Thursday, March 7, 2013

Choose your battles

One week from today I will be conducting an audio conference for Copyediting. The subject is "Choosing Your Battles," and you still have time to sign up here.

Whether you are editing a single short article or a major project, whether you are working for a publishing concern or freelancing, the same concerns always arise: balancing the varied interests of author, publication, and audience; establishing appropriate priorities; and, because there will never, ever be enough time for everything you would like to do, resorting to triage.

I cannot resolve every issue for you, but I can help you to prepare to face them and deal with them effectively before you go completely nuts.

Moreover, your contributions to the discussion, the insights from your own experiences in editing, will be most welcome. I hope that the conference will not turn out to be a mere monologue.



Saturday, March 2, 2013

Just like making newspapers

A moment before the afternoon news meeting was to begin yesterday, a colleague remarked that he had been reading The Old Editor Says and enjoying it.

I replied that an eagle-eyed reader had just that day filed a comment listing a handful of typos and other errors in the text. My colleague started laughing and said to the group, "Of course! His readers are just like him."

From the comment, here are the things that John Cowan, bless his painstaking attention, pointed out:

Well, my copy of TOES has finally arrived and has been read three times (what I tell you three times is true).

p. 10: For "smok'em" read "smoke 'em"; likewise for "got'em" read "got 'em".

p. 16: As I understand it, goat-chokers and thumbsuckers are different things, though related. A goat-choker is stuffed full of irrelevant facts, whereas a thumbsucker is made up of dubiously informed opinions. Consumption of the former causes constipation; the latter, borborygmi.

p. 22: "does not a have a tattoo" a has an article too many.

p. 24: for "schelp" read "schlep", or better yet "shlep", as "sch" in Yiddish words is unnecessary.

p. 27: "and will be done" makes "will" look like a verb.

p. 39: Not monotype, monowidth. This is a pet peeve of mine. Monotype is an obsolete typesetting machine and the name of a type foundry. Courier, Consolas, Lucida Sans Mono, and Liberation Mono are monowidth fonts.

p. 51: "Boasts"? You'd be down on that like a ton of bricks in anyone else's article.

p. 53: I puzzled over "if not is used" for a bit until I realized that "not" should have been italicized.

p. 55: You may know all about Charlie Stough, but the rest of us don't. A word or two of identification wouldn't kill you.

p. 56: Even worse are the meetings where the actual decisions have already been made elsewhere.

p. 58: Some tools, however, are unfit for their alleged purposes (if any: see Gary Larson's "cow tools"). And sometimes the squeaky wheel actually does get a little grease.

p. 60: Well, no. Some of us edit as a sideline to our real jobs.

p. 64: It's my view that the best way to oppose a stupid rule put forth by a prescriptivist is to become a prescriptivist: "No. That is not the rule. The rule is ..." It works better than sweet reason with people who are stuck on rules in the first place: they just want a rule, and if you give them one with sufficient authority, they'll accept it.

p. 67: "Don't be so humble. You're not that great." —Golda Meir.

But all that said: well done!


Some of them are the more irritating because they had been identified and marked for correction. (Just like making newspapers.)

But now they will be. I have forwarded half a dozen corrections to Apprentice House. They will be incorporated into the electronic text, and further copies will be correct as the printer produces them.

Take care, though, that you do not discard the copy with errors in it. It may, in time, come to have some value, like those 1918 24-cent U.S. postage stamps with the airplane upside-down. 


ADDITIONALLY: Reader reactions to the book continue to come in. At Throw Grammar From the Train, Jan Freeman remarks that an evening with The Old Editor Says was preferable to an evening with the Oscars.

Friday, March 1, 2013

Muster your forces

Not that I want to belabor military metaphors, but it is sometimes useful to prepare for editing as a general prepares for battle: you survey the ground, looking for a favorable position; you muster your forces, sizing up the available resources; you deploy your forces, determining where they are likely to be most effective; and, once the cutting and thrusting have begun, you do triage.

"Choosing Your Battles"  is the title I've chosen for an audio conference for Copyeditor in which I will talk about the editor's responsibility to author, publisher, and reader, as well as to oneself, for ninety minutes, 11:30 a.m. to 1:00 p.m., Eastern, on Thursday, March 14.

Click on the link to see further information and to sign up.

I hope not to spend an hour and a half jabbering by myself; nobody wants that. I trust that those of you who sign up will have experiences and insights to contribute, and you will be given opportunities to do so. 

The mentor you wish you had

I drove up to Bel Air on Monday to have lunch with Andy Faith and give him a copy of The Old Editor Says, which is dedicated to him.

It was a sunny day, and I had the luck of a Haydn symphony on the radio for the trip up and the trip back. Andy was in good form, healthy and cheerful. He says that he has enjoyed retirement more than he expected to when he left The Sun in 2008, and the project that he has been working on, a vast family genealogical text, is going strong.

It was Andy who rescued me from the toils of Gannett nearly twenty-seven years ago, and it is from Andy that I learned most of what I know about being a manager as well as an editor. You would be lucky to have such a mentor.

You, too, have the opportunity to own The Old Editor Says. Just click on a link to order the print copy or the Kindle version:






(We all understand, I hope, that I have to flog the damn book myself, since no one else will do so.)

But wait, there's more:
My learned colleague Bill Walsh is about to bring out another book. If you enjoyed and profited from Lapsing Into a Comma and The Elephants of Style, you will surely want to own Yes I Could Care Less.