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John McIntyre

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

Every workday I leave my house in Northeast Baltimore and drive the gauntlet through the Mount Vernon neighborhood, traffic-clogged downtown, and South Baltimore until I reach The Sun’s offices at Port Covington.

Yes, I said “gauntlet.”

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You have been given bad advice

So I posted this on Facebook and Twitter: “I would be interested in learning the dumbest advice you were ever given on grammar and usage, particularly by an English teacher or an editor.”

Then the heavens opened.

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In the syntax fields, a whimsical fiction

We set out at the crack of noon.

Armed with nets and collecting bottles, we headed for the syntax fields to see what specimens, common or rare, we could identify. My guide, Jesperson, had grown up in the prose thickets and knew every niche.

Once we left the path, the ground was littered with their for there, it’s for its, and other detritus, hardly to be considered game worth troubling over.

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Make an effort

A colleague was subjected to a little chaffing the other day for saying that something was being “efforted.” Where is that from?” they teased.

I had heard it occasionally over the years, sometimes used mockingly, and had assumed that it was self-important workplace jargon.

But you don’t suppose; you check.

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Who ARE these people?

Item: Complaints when profane language appears in newspapers typically assert that such language will have a bad effect on children.

Who are these children reading newspapers?

Item: Opposition to proposals for government-sponsored health care usually express misgivings that such coverage would lead to huge expense, massive paperwork, a slow-moving bureaucracy, and delays in care.

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The dying copy editor: a whimsical fiction

He had worked on metropolitan newspaper copy desks for more than forty years, but now, as his body failed, his family had been told by the doctors that the end was very close.

They gathered at the bedside as he dozed, his hands feebly plucking at the coverlet now and again.

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