You Don't Say

You Don't Say John E. McIntyre writes about language, usage, journalism & arbitrarily chosen subjects.
Back to the roots

One of the most durable metaphors in American politics is the grass roots, or grassroots (more on the difference later.

William Safire defines it with admirable concision in Safire’s Political Dictionary: “The ultimate source of power, often patronized, occasionally feared; the rank and file of a party, or voters not normally politically active.”

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Another crotchet to cross off your list

Word does not always travel instantaneously online, and some people found themselves exercised this weekend to learn that the Associated Press Sytylebook dropped the over/more than distinction over four years ago.*

As it happened, it was also on the past weekend that another extinct crotchet came to my attention when a colleague asked if an eke out construction was legit.

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We owe a debt to Hank Glamann

Back in the days when newspapers still employed copy editors, the job was devoid of prestige. The copy desk was the place where reporters fetched up once their legs or livers gave out. It was the last resort. Managers too lazy to supervise or too cowardly to fire would dispatch to the copy desk anybody who had bungled every other assignment.

I am not making this up, you know.

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We've been had

Dave Tepps of The Washington Post has raised a point online about a construction that has irritated me for years:

“NYT makes the common ‘error of volition’ here by writing: ‘Ms. Watkins, a Washington-based reporter for The New York Times, had her email and phone records seized by federal prosecutors.’ Unless she asked the feds to seize her records, this is worded improperly.

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In a word: unalienable

Each week The Sun's John McIntyre presents a moderately obscure but evocative word with which you may not be familiar — another brick to add to the wall of your working vocabulary. This week's word:


As Mr.

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What you get when you work with me

You’re the writer; I’m the editor. Here’s how it goes. My job is to make you look good.

That’s why you can count on me to go over your text looking for typographical errors, repeated words, subjects that don’t agree with verbs, mistaken homonyms, minor errors of fact, and the other little slips that all of us are prone to. I’ll make sure you have clean copy.

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