Tag Archives: spelling

It Was Not an Historic Event

I’ve noticed a lot of people of a certain age tend to use the indefinite article an before the word historic (or historical): The radio announcer said, “It was an historic event.” This is actually incorrect usage, y’all, though I think I may have been taught this in school, and you may have been too. […]

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Wordplay: Neglected Positives, Inpeas, and Falsies

Prefixes like “in,” “non,” “un,” “dis,” and “im” make words negative, yes? There may be grammatical particulars I am not addressing here, but generally speaking. So you have a positive word like “restrained,” and you add the prefix “un” to get a negative: unrestrained. Possible. Impossible. Sane. Insane. When there’s a negative word or expression—immaculate, […]

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Proper English: Us Versus Them

A writer friend of mine posted a little meme* on Facebook the other day: Never make fun of someone if they mispronounce a word. It means they learned it by reading. I doubt there’s any data to support this but I feel the truth of it in my bones, having been a child who read […]

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The Style Guide Is Your Friend

I was reading my Entertainment Weekly at lunch the other day (“12 Things You Never Knew About Harry Potter”) and was positively gobsmacked by number nine: The Half-Blood Prince 9. To try to ensure consistency within the books, and keep track of characters, spells, and the like, Bloomsbury had to create an in-house file known as […]

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On the Same Page: You, Me, and the Style Guide

I really love the left-brain/right-brain duality of editing. It’s both prescriptivist and descriptivist. It’s a puzzle and yet has the same elements. Every project’s different … and every project’s the same—in that it has a need for a style guide. You’ve heard me talk about the Chicago Manual of Style. If you have a question […]

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Short Saturday: I Am Not Editing Our Conversation

No, really. I’m not. Not outwardly, not inwardly. Promise. The Old Editor Says … Edit to live, don’t live to edit.* It’s not your job to correct other people’s speech. It’s not your job to correct menus or public signage. It’s not your job, however much it may appeal to you as an avocation, to […]

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Mistakes Were Made: The First Draft vs. Your Best Effort

You’ve seen it in dozens of movies, so many it’s practically a cliché: on a desperate deadline, the writer frantically types the last words of the manuscript—closeup of the words The End—then rrrrips the paper out of the typewriter carriage, and immediately sends a pile of pages off to his publisher. Finished! (I realize I’m […]

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Your Fifth-Grade Teacher Versus
… Well, Me

When I was a kid, some of my best friends were teachers. What grade was I in when my teacher read aloud to us every day after lunch? The Story of Doctor Doolittle (by Hugh Lofting, published 1920) influenced me in many more ways than just giving me a delight for books. Now that I’m […]

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Short Saturday: America’s Second Revolution

For a pair of countries that share so much history (read David Hackett Fischer’s fascinating Albion’s Seed if you don’t believe me), England and the United States are curiously divided on words and how to use them. Or spell them. The fact that we’re still talking about it in 2013 just proves the theme of this […]

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Not All Dictionaries Are Created Equal

If you’ve been coming ’round here for awhile, you know I have a thing for the dictionary. There’s, like, so much information in such a small space! It’s so efficient! And it contains all the building blocks for my work in one place! Aaaah. But the dictionary’s a relatively new development, considering humankind has been […]

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