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 18, 2014

O brave new world, that has such pixels in it

The Internet is not as smart as it thinks it is. 

I know that we all crouch under the all-seeing eye of Mordor, our surfing and shopping monitored by our government, our email and search engine providers, the merchants with whom we shop. 

But if you look closely, you see slippage in the surveillance.

Item: The servers to which The Sun is connected are not in Baltimore, so when I go online at work, Google assumes that I am in Chicago. 

Item: I was once mistakenly put on a mailing list for an Atlanta swim club. (Have you ever tried to get your name off a group email list? It's worse than getting chewing gum out of the cat.) I think I finally extricated myself from that, but I still get come-ons from Atlanta businesses every day. 

Item: Amazon.com regularly communicates offers for me to buy my own book

Item: Nearly a year ago, AT&T confused me with one James McIntyre, who has, or had, an account with them, and started sending me his billing information. I was naive then, and I went to the AT&T website to remedy the matter. It was an electronic version of an Escher drawing. Email was equally futile. 

So I posted at this blog in September about AT&T's ineptitude. Apparently susceptible to public embarrassment, some functionary wrote and promised to clear the matter up. When I was still getting James McIntyre email in November, I posted again. I got a reply and assurances from yet another functionary. 

I still don't know whether James McIntyre's account is in order, and I don't care. Let the dead bury their dead. This morning I got another AT&T offer calling me "James."

The thing that will blind Mordor's all-seeing eye is the sheer volume of this stuff. 

At my work email, I delete scores of messages a day, many of them irrelevant to my purposes, many of only ephemeral importance. Recently, someone added me to The Sun's electronic tip line. Now, in addition to a daily flood of p.r. bumf, I am privileged to receive the pronouncements of every crank in Christendom, and I delete messages by the hundreds. 

I no longer even look at the spam file, which apparently purges itself every gigabyte or two. That means I shall never draw on that Nigerian banking account, but journalism trains one to live modestly. 

Yes, you are under perpetual surveillance and any sense of personal privacy you cling to is illusory. But be of good cheer: They are all inept.

Saturday, July 12, 2014

Sweetest words in English: check enclosed

A couple of days ago a check from Apprentice House arrived, the royalties for The Old Editor Says from 2013.

Several of you have been kind enough to praise the book, and Jan Freeman. Stan Carey, and Steve Buttry, among others, have written generous reviews of the little book. Now I have an additional reason to be grateful to those of you who bought the book: cash in the bank.

Some of you, no doubt through oversight, have not bought The Old Editor Says, but don't be troubled; it's still available, in print and electronic versions. A previous post carries a link to Amazon.com and also includes links to those favorable reviews.  Let me assure you that a royalty check next year from your purchases will be just as gratefully received as this year's.

And since the stores are already flogging their back-to-school merchandise, this might be a good time to think about purchasing a copy for that young person who aspires to be a writer and would benefit from a little sound advice.