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/.

Friday, July 26, 2013

Put this in the backpack

At the office supply store the other day, I noticed that the back-to-school merchandise is already on display. And yet there is one essential article for the aspiring writer/editor not to be found there.

I refer, of course, to The Old Editor Says:

In print:



In Kindle:




The distilled wisdom of three decades in the paragraph game, it will give the fledgling advice that should, if heeded, spare the tyro upbraiding, shouting, reproach, derision, and more-in-sorrow-than-in-anger correction.

The Old Editor Says has been praised in reviews by Dawn McIlvain Stahl at Copyediting, Steve Buttry at The Buttry Diary, and Stan Carey at Sentence first. Don't neglect the reader reviews at Amazon.com, where the sole negative notice presents three solecisms in three sentences.
Dawn McIlvain Stahat Copyediting, Steve Buttry's Buttry Diary, Stan Carey's Sentence first,

For a preview, you can listen to the Old Editor at a Grammar Girl podcast.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Product placement

When I go in to get a haircut, I am always asked, "Do you want some product?" (They always offer to sell you stuff, but they never offer to comb out the loose clippings that subsequently land on your shoulders.) I always say no. I pay, tip, and go away for six to eight weeks. I was a child of the Sixties.

When I hit adolescence, I was a regular user of Vitalis or Brylcreem, in a vain attempt to make my curls and waves ruly. Considerably more than a little dab did me. Over time I developed a distaste for having a greasy head. But today, with product undreamed of in the hair-oil-and-paste era of my youth, I see men every day whose hair glistens, who have evidently been persuaded that little oily spikes are attractive.

Women, bless their hearts, have long been accustomed to this commodification of appearance. Pope wrote about it in Rape of the Lock: "To save the Powder from too rude a Gale, / Nor let th' imprison'd Essences exhale, / To draw fresh Colours from the vernal Flow'rs, / To steal from Rainbows ere they drop in Show'rs / A brighter Wash; to curl their waving Hairs, / Assist their blushes, and inspire their Airs."

And now men as well. There is a mention in today's Sun of a collection of unguents, oils, and powders costing in excess of seventy dollars to make shaving an enterprise as complicated and expensive as exploratory surgery. No wonder some have chosen to go about in public sporting two or three days' worth of stubble.*

Yesterday I was offered the chance to buy some exotic shampoo that would prevent an ugly sheen from appearing on my "lovely silver hair." No sale.

Most of us are not Adonises. I certainly wasn't in my hot-blooded youth, and there is no prospect of it at this late date. Being washed, combed, shaven, and decently covered is about the best I can expect, and I recommend it to my fellow Y-chromosome bearers. Save your money for the things that matter in life, and books and good liquor.



*Incidentally, you do not look like Brad Pitt; you look like you're coming off a bender.