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I was wrong

The Baltimore Sun

No one appreciates better than a copy editor the human propensity to error. Ands thus when an error is made by a copy editor, the right thing to do is to fess up forthrightly. 

Item: Last week I wrote on Nicholas Kristof's dropping the middle initial from his byline. He subsequently tweeted that my referring to his having done so in a column was wrong, that the text had appeared on his blog, On the Ground. He is correct, and I apologize without reservation for the error. 

Happily, it is not necessary to retract or amend anything else I wrote on the subject. 

Item: In "Truth is not optional," I commented on a remark by Sara Critchfield of Upworthy.com, “We reject the idea that the media elite or people who have been trained in a certain way somehow have the monopoly on editorial judgment.” I read into that (while appending a superfluous h to her first name) the scorn for editing that has recently marked both online and print publications.

I subsequently heard from Matt Savener, the site's head copy editor and fact checker: "First, Upworthy copy edits and fact-checks everything on our site. I have led the small team that does it since Upworthy launched in early 2012. I was proud to join because the co-founders were passionate about copy editing from the beginning. Secondly, we do everything you mention in the last paragraph of your blog post. I'm concerned about your assumption that we don't check facts or care about the truth — especially in a blog post focusing your readers on the need for verification.

"Third, you inferred much in your second point about Sara's quote that she did not say or imply. Your first point ("that the production of journalism does not require any set of formal credentials") was indeed her point. However, your "additional level" — and the assumptions then made about our practices — were not Sara's point in any way. Unfortunately, it was attributed as unspoken (and unintended) meaning of her quote."

I apologize for my unwarranted extrapolation.

Item: Relying on a news article some months back indicating that the Queen's English Society in Britain was shutting down, I referred to its demise in a post last week, subsequently learning otherwise in a note from Dr. Bernard Lamb, president of the society, who wrote: 

"Please inform your eager readers that the Queen's English Society did not die and is alive and well, and active. You and they are welcome to join us. Our journal Quest is still coming out three times a year and is full of good articles. 

"I was never in favour of an English Academy and the man who strongly wanted us to have one has died. There is no academy now on our website."
Another member, Mr. Michael Gorman, wrote thus: 
"More seriously, our Society has long been in disagreement with Professor Crystal. He is one of many who argue that each version of each language is equally valid for its users. We argue that some versions of language are more equal than others, especially if one wishes to reach an audience over a wide range of space and time. Our opponents say that makes us 'elitist'. Unfortunately one or two of our members in the past have been personally discourteous to Crystal, and there is a tinge of animus to our public exchanges.
"You, sir, are the editor of a fine newspaper, known if not widely read here in Britain; and your career demonstrates ability in and love for the English language. I hope you will accept the point our Society makes about reaching a wide audience."
I apologize to Dr. Lamb, Mr. Gorman, and the other members of the society for prematurely interring it. 
I am pleased to see a concession that an unfortunate animus has at times marked the exchanges between members of the society and linguists and lexicographers, but I regret that Mr. Gorman distorts what Professor Crystal and others are saying. 
It is a canard that linguists say that every version of English is equally valid all the time. I'm fairly confident that Professor Crystal has expected his students to write academic papers in British version of the dialect known as formal written English. What he and other linguists say is that formal written English is not the "correct" version of English from which variations are errors. The various versions of English, the linguists say, are valid for their speakers and writers in particular contexts.
If the irenic tone of Mr. Gorman's letter could lead to greater recognition of this point, subsequent discussions might be more profitable for all parties concerned. 




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