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 email@example.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, December 30, 2016
Friday, December 9, 2016
Tuesday, October 25, 2016
These photos, which recently surfaced in a folder deep in a file cabinet, were from the workshop I conducted there at the invitation of Pam Robinson.
Over the nineteen years since, as I have come to examine the things about English usage that I had been taught, looking at evidence in Bryan Garner's four edition of his usage manual, at the evidence presented by lexicographers and linguists about usage, and at the evidence of my own eyes, the advice in that workshop has undergone revision.
Saturday, October 1, 2016
A few weeks ago, there he was, the bane of my life in the third and fourth grades, my principal bully. I was a skinny bookworm and teacher's pet. He was bigger, more muscular, a halting student at best, and he was seldom at his best. He enjoyed tormenting me.
Now he is dead, an old guy, like me, apparently mourned by his daughters.
I don't visualize him as an adult with children. He is fixed in my head as he was then. The subsequent fifty-five years don't signify. (I will not describe him further, because he has children who mourn him.)
There is the problem. He is fixed in my head.
He, and the subordinate bullies who sometimes chimed in, established in my mind that I am someone to be bullied, someone who lacks power, someone with no recourse. My parents and teachers knew that I felt bullied, but they were at a loss to do anything beyond allowing the children to work it out on their own.
My bully, to my astonishment, metamorphosed into adult for whom someone could bear affection. I, in turn, metamorphosed into an adult with a family, a profession, a reputation, a standing.
But I am also someone who typically shies away from conflict and confrontation, because I was thoroughly programmed early on to see myself as unable to prevail in such circumstances.
Sixty-five years old, and I could still use some work.
Friday, September 30, 2016
Surely you don't think that it's wholesome for him to drink alone.
Sunday, September 25, 2016
Saturday, August 13, 2016
And if your bright-eyed scholar aspires to be a writer, you may also have thrown in a copy of Strunk and White.
Well, mistakes are made. But they can be corrected.
At Amazon.com you can find, for an exceedingly modest price, The Old Editor Says, a pithy compilation of invaluable advice about writing and editing. Grammar Girl loved it, and your embryo Scott Fitzgerald or Max Perkins will benefit enormously.
Operators are standing by.
Sunday, August 7, 2016
"They that have never peep't beyond the common belief in which their easier understandings were at first indoctrinated, are indubitabely assur'd of the Truth, and comparative excellence of their receptions, while the larger Souls, that have travail'd the divers Climates of Opinions, are more cautious in their resolves, and more sparing to determine."
Thursday, July 14, 2016
This afternoon, as the sun heats up Baltimore to a muggy ninety-five degrees, it will also be running the fan on our air conditioner.
Wednesday, June 15, 2016
Monday, May 9, 2016
The office I have occupied since 2000 (one year excepted).
My cubicle at the news desk/copy desk. I regret that the monitor blocks half of the rubber chicken and that I carelessly cut of the top of the Guy Noir statuette at upper left.
Friday, May 6, 2016
When fifty or so hours a week at a desk at The Sun is not enough, there is always an opportunity to work at home, perhaps at the iMac on which I write most of the posts for You Don't Say ...
or at the desk. The swivel chair is the one my grandfather, John H. McIntyre, used in his general store in Elizaville, Kentucky.
Sunday, April 17, 2016
It was my freshman year at Michigan State, and I approached a couple of my teachers to urge them to assign me the highest grade they could justify, because if I got a sufficiently high grade point average at the end of the term, I would be admitted to the Honors College and exempted from the physical education requirement.
They did; I was.
At Ewing Elementary School, when I was in the seventh and eighth grades, our physical education classes consisted of a series of calisthenics to a recording ("Go, you chicken fats, go!"), followed by dodge ball. The instructor, who I think had been a physical education major at Morehead State, played dodgeball gleefully, with full adult male velocity and power. He particularly delighted in nailing the bookworm, but he had to work at it. I was surprisingly nimble then.
In my sophomore year at Fleming County High School, the teacher had it in mind that the students should learn something about anatomy and physiology in the classroom. (He didn't last.) I, of course, got grades on tests that wrecked the curve for the rest of the class and was hopeless in the gym or outdoors. Class consisted of running laps followed by miscellaneous sports, with little or no direction. It was, I think, assumed that boys all knew that stuff.
Little or no direction also marked my one term of phys ed at Michigan State, where the graduate teaching assistant passively observed us in miscellaneous activities. We had, I recall, one day of splashing around randomly in the pool. It was at eight o'clock in the morning, too, which made the exemption from further phys ed classes the more welcome.
There was no mention of anything like a fitness program, nothing to connect whatever it was we were supposed to be doing in class to the rest of our lives. It would by nice to think that physical education classes today are a little better developed, but I haven't gone looking.
And, as you may well imagine, these various classes did little to mitigate my lifelong distaste for jockery.
Today, at sixty-five, I am ten to fifteen pounds overweight and mildly troubled by arthritis in my feet and knees. But my blood pressure and cholesterol levels are normal. I am on no medications. Unless my body is harboring some as yet unknown pending disaster, I should have several more good years ahead.
I can't say that I owe that to my phys ed classes.