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You Don't Say

You Don't Say John E. McIntyre writes about language, usage, journalism & arbitrarily chosen subjects.
Defending the AP Stylebook

Great Fowler’s ghost! That it should have come to this. I am defending the Associated Press Stylebook.

The editors posted an ad at Facebook about changed entries that have been introduced in recent years, asking, “Are you using the latest AP style guidance?” They should have known better.

At the top of the comments are more than a dozen whingeing about the decision to drop the over/more than distinction.

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A purist walks into a bar: A Grammarnoir episode

I’m sitting in the bar, enjoying a quiet pint of Smithwick’s, when this nimrod wearing a red Make America Grammatical Again cap comes through the door and sits down on the stool next to me.

“I’ll have a lite beer,” he tells the bartender.

Figures, I think.

“What’s your game?” he turns and asked me.

“Mainly annoying people online.

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That damn apostrophe

Today, God help me, I’m writing about baseball.

My esteemed colleague Dan Rodricks has forwarded an email complaint about a reference to the Orioles in a front-page headline as the “O’s.”

Under the heading “Not a possessive,” the complaint: “I have always disliked the notion of the ‘Os.’ To me, raised on Chuck Thompson, the team is known as the Birds.

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Anyone for Grammanoir?

With National Grammar Day (March Fourth) approaching, I had made no plans to write a Grammarnoir episode this year, but this morning I have been challenged on Facebook to produce one.

I make no promises. But I am offering one potential initial sentence. If it looks promising to you, how about you make suggestions about the plot, either publicly or privately.

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Make room on the shelf for "Dreyer's English," and make Dreyer's English your English

In writing about writers’ and editors’ crotchets, Benjamin Dreyer praises “the bracingly peeve-dismantling Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary of English Usage." If bracing writing about language appeals to you, Dreyer’s English: An Utterly Correct Guide to Clarity and Style (Random House, 291 pages, $25) is the book for you.

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Speaking terms

Rawley Grau, a former colleague, posed a question on Facebook about a New York Times usage. Why, he wondered, does The Times use the term spokeswoman rather than spokesperson?

One simple answer is that news style guides are conservative and reluctant to change. They are prissy about vulgar language.

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