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

Wednesday, April 18, 2018


A week from today I will be flying to Chicago for the national conference of ACES the Society for Editing (formerly the American Copy Editors Society).

The conference is at capacity, with seven hundred editors registered. Among them will be many old friends with whom to reunite and see the marks the years have left on us. And there will be people to encounter for the first time, which is always stimulating.

Some of you at the conference will be numbered among my readers, and I hope that you will take advantage of the chance to speak with me. Writing is isolating, and it is always good to put a face and a voice and a personality to a reader.

Herewith my annual advice to first-time participants: Don't hang back. The grandees of editing will be there, and they are approachable. Everyone at ACES will be happy that you are there, happy to get to know you. Go to the sessions; go to the bar. These are your people, the people who love what you do and understand who you are. Don't be shy.

And, of course this conference will allow me to see once more my grandson, Julian Early McIntyre. Another opportunity not to be missed.

Sunday, March 18, 2018

Stand with the teachers

West Virginia's 20,000 public school teachers went on a nine-day strike over their pay and faced down the state legislature. Good for them.

In my native state, Kentucky, there have been extensive protests over a bill in the legislature that would reduce benefits for retired teachers. The governor, Matt Bevin, expressed himself last week: "If they get what they wish for, they will not have a pension system for younger people who are still working. And that to me is remarkably selfish and shortsighted."

I stand with the teachers.

Coming from what one would discreetly call modest circumstances, I can see that a good deal of what I am today I owe to underpaid Kentucky teachers. I entered the first grade in a school that had eight grades in a building with five classrooms. One grade studied while the teacher taught the other, and then reversed. But my fourth-grade teacher, Frances Dorsey, opened up the wider world to me. In high school, Lynda McKee drew me out of my introversion with public speaking and drama, encouraging my writing in her senior English class.

It was the instruction and encouragement of underpaid public school teachers that enabled me to come out of Elizaville, Kentucky, and become a National Merit semi-finalist, go on to become an honors graduate of Michigan State, earn a master's degree from Syracuse, and eventually become as an editor part of the East Coast liberal media establishment.

Some of my classmates went on to become underpaid public school teachers themselves, and I stand with them.

We live in a time when legislatures focused on austerity are unwilling to fund public education, when we have a national secretary of education who appears neither to support nor understand public education.

But public education, adequately funded and properly structured, is the means to achieve our future. Neglecting it, making teachers bear the brunt of misguided austerity measures, will shortchange  students, leaving them less ready, less prepared to take on adult responsibilities in the world developing around us. It's bad judgment and bad policy. It is, to apply the words properly, selfish and shortsighted.

Stand with the teachers.

Thursday, February 15, 2018

In a technologically advanced workplace

This morning, in my office at Loyola University Maryland, I attempted to print from my desktop computer a handout for my editing class.

Though I had done so numerous times this semester, I got an error message. The printer, which is networked did not recognize that I was supposed to be connected to it.

I though for a moment to call the technical support office, but then I noticed that the telephone in the office was not working. Perhaps a coincidence, or perhaps an additional symptom of some network disruption.

I might have sent an email to the technical support office, but that was not possible. The Communication Department is housed in the bowels of a campus building in what used to be a swimming pool. There is no cellphone reception in the offices, which leaves me unable to use the two-factor authentication to sign in to my campus email.

In more than twenty years at Loyola, I have noticed that nearly every technical advance makes it just that much more difficult to get anything done.

I walked to my editing class and wrote the information for my students with chalk, on a chalkboard.

Some technologies are enduringly useful.