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/.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Sitting in judgment

The old schoolroom certitudes about grammar and usage that many of us were taught have come under fire: from linguists who question their validity, from lexicographers who record widespread usage that flouts those rules, and even from prescriptivists like Bryan Garner who call them superstitions.

Those of us who edit have to watch and monitor the development of the language. Singular they appears to be gaining ground. Whom  seems to be on its last legs (though Geoffrey Pullum suggests puckishly that there may be a biological advantage in using it). Whether to stick up for or abandon a long-standing usage is a delicate point of judgment.

Thus on March 12 I will be conducting an audio conference for Copyediting, "Judgment Calls," in which I will address a number of these thorny points of usage and offer advice on how to make reasonable editorial choices.

I not only hope that you will sign up for what I hope will partake of conversation as well as monologue, but that you will also offer suggestions about points of usage that you find vexatious. Be assured that I have a list of my own cued up, but I think the conference will be more productive if it takes account of the issues you identify from your own work.

Feel free to make suggestions in the comments, or to write to me directly.

6 comments:

  1. "Restrictive which", as carved in stone on Lincoln Memorial, I believe?

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  2. The link to Pullum's suggestion is actually another link to your audio conference.

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  3. Corrected the link. Many thanks for pointing that out.

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  4. John, I am certain the talk is worth it, but it is a bit out of my price range. Good luck!\

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  5. A little hefty for my budget. But I am sure the price is worth it!

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