A spokesperson for sanity

The Baltimore Sun’s in-house stylebook used to have more than 3,000 entries: the bulk of it AP style entries, with local variations on AP, local place names, local crotchets, and the like. It existed only in electronic form, and about a year and a half ago a lapse of attention in IT allowed the server that carried it fail. It is irretrievably gone.

Since then, the paper has basically followed AP style, as recorded in old editions of the stylebook scattered around the premises, combined with spotty recollections of how we were accustomed to do things.

One thing we used to do was to change spokesperson to spokesman or spokeswoman whenever it popped up in copy. That prohibition survives in the current edition of the Associated Press Stylebook, which hesitates to leap on board with novelties. Of course, spokesperson hasn’t been all that much a novelty for forty years. But never mind. One senses that perhaps at AP they still bitterly regret having given up on the long s and the dieresis on coordinate.

I therefore take a rude pleasure every time I allow spokesperson to go into print. You should too.

Motivated Grammar has weighed in on the emotional and irrational resistance to gender-neutral terms, examining why some of them sound all right and some sound awkward. Spokesperson, he thinks, is here to stay, the wattle-shaking of various cranky old white guys notwithstanding.

Meanwhile, at After Deadline, the in-house newsletter on grammar and style at The New York Times, Philip Corbett takes aim at the false range. You know it, the journalistic crutch that lists “everything from x to y.” Mr. Corbett mentions a You Don’t Say post on the subject with measured approval and goes on to denounce it as a damnable cliche. And so it is.



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