Grammarnoir 5: The Shame of the Prose, Part 1

The Baltimore Sun

“Grammarnoir 5: The Shame of the Prose” is a four-part serial, running on Mondays from February 11 until the thrilling conclusion on March 4, National Grammar Day.  Grammarnoir is a work of fiction.  Any resemblance of characters to any persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental.


Part 1: See a Fellow About a Scam

He was a pudgy little man with a suit that might have fit him a couple of hundred Denny’s grand slams ago. His eyes wouldn’t stop roaming around the room, and he was beginning to sweat, even though the outfit I work for doesn’t throw around simoleons on heat for the help. He said his name was Charles Finch, and the smell of fear on him was like a newsroom on a buyout deadline day.

“Look,” I told him, “I’m not hanging up the green eyeshade, but I’ve got my hands full here with night content production. It’s a gig, regular paychecks and no heavy lifting, so I don’t go out on freelance errands of mercy any more.”

“But you’re the only one who can h-h-h-help me,” Finch said. Sweating and stammering. “Your blog,  your credentials, your fame and p-p-p-prestige among editors. They say you’re the one who got the AP Stylebook to c-c-c-cave on hopefully.”

“Ease up on the airy persiflage,” I said with a wave of my hand. “I caught them shaking down a bunch of college newspapers, got a little leverage on them.”

“But you know them, you know how they operate, you can talk to them. You can g-g-g-get them off my back.”

His was an old story, a twice-told tale. He ran a little operation, strictly small-time, and he was over his head, got himself into trouble with clients, fell short on the editing. So he went to the AP Stylebook, and they gave him a little free help on capitalization. Before he knew what had happened to him, he was in deep, too deep, choosing words or numerals for numbers, like that, the numbers game. When he tried to back out of the subscription, the AP sent a couple of goons around to throw a scare into him. You know, “Nice little article you got there. Be a shame if something should … happen … to it.”

It worked, and now he was sweating in my office.

“Oh all right,” I said. “Before you steam up my windows, we’ll go see a fellow.”

“A fellow?”

“Yeah, I think we should have a little parley with David Minthorn.”

“Minthorn?” His eyes bulged. “The AP Stylebook editor? The capo di tutti copy?”

“Yeah, Minthorn. I know him of old.”

NEXT:  The Capo

Copyright © 2018, The Baltimore Sun, a Baltimore Sun Media Group publication | Place an Ad