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, befriend at Facebook, or follow at Twitter: @johnemcintyre. Back 2009-2012 at the original site, and now at

Monday, April 4, 2016

Flaunting good judgment, flouting bad advice

Experienced, precise editors maintain distinctions in English usage. That is the badge of our professionalism. But not all distinctions merit our time and attention.

Did you, as I did, spend years pointlessly changing over to more than? 

Do you wince when someone says "begs the question" to mean "raises the question"?  

Are you running the gantlet or gauntlet when a writer peppers your with challenges to your edits?

On Wednesday, April 13, I will be conducting an audio course for Copyediting, "Evaluating Language Nuances: Which to Enforce and Which to Let Go." We'll go over more than two dozen traditional distinctions of usage (and you'll have an opportunity to argue with me) to sort out what the authorities say and what actual usage shows. 

By the end, you will have enough grounding to make assured and informed judgments about which distinctions to uphold and which to let go of. 

Clicking on the link above will direct you to information on signing up. I'm eager, but perhaps not anxious,  to talk with you.


  1. I argue in my Bierce edition that eagerness is almost always mixed with anxiety, to some degree, but I suppose there are Pollyannas who would disagree.

  2. I am so sorry I missed this audio course. I know I would have enjoyed it.