July 21, 2019 icon depicting Haze weather 84°F
Driving the gauntlet

Writing can be running a gantlet between people who follow an imaginary rule and people who are utterly unaware of it.

You have been given bad advice

Great Fowler’s ghost! There has been some serious grammar and usage malpractice out there.

In the syntax fields, a whimsical fiction

You never know what you will find in the wild.

Make an effort

Some people object to "efforting," but I rather like it.

Who ARE these people?

John McIntyre has many questions

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

Just split the damn infinitive

The charming article by Mary Norris on attending the recent national conference of ACES: The Society for Editing, “Dropped Hyphens, Split Infinitives, and Other

Last day of class

This morning was the last day of class in my twenty-fourth year of teaching editing at Loyola University Maryland. The concluding remarks to my students are

A meditation on mowing

I was cutting the grass this morning, pushing the mower across the yard, turning, and pushing it back in the opposite direction, when boustrophedon popped into

For pasting above the desk

Over the years I’ve assembled a number of quotations on writing, editing, and grammar. From this selection, pick what would be most helpful to you if you look

Victory lap

Last week at the national conference of ACES: The Society for Editing, Paula Froke, editor of the Associated Press Stylebook, asked a question during the

Defending the AP Stylebook

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

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

That damn apostrophe

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

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

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

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

We heal with the knife

I tell students in my editing class at Loyola University Maryland that editing is like surgery.

Take the cache and let the edit go

Today on Morning Joe, Mika Brzezinski quoted from a text and pronounced the word cache as “cash-ay.” This is a common confusion.

The Republic in safe hands

Yesterday, as the 116th Congress assumed office, two Muslim representatives were sworn in as they held copies of the Quran—one of them, Rep. Rashida Tlaib of

The usual suspects

During four decades of editing in big-time journalism, I’ve encountered few exotic specimens. You sit at the bench for hours, and it’s always the same damned

Lay that burden down

One of the readers of yesterday’s post on the increasingly rapid decay of whom in general usage asked the inevitable question: “What's your thinking on

Just use "who"

All right, people, we have been here before. I’m going to go over this one last time and then be done with it. Most of you should just give up on whom and not

What editors mean

A translation of your editor’s stock comments.

The 'correct' and the common

I drifted into—and later abandoned—one of those frustrating online discussion on grammar in which a participant insisted on distinguishing between what is

Keep the 'X' in 'Xmas'

It is a little tiresome to have to repeat explanation year after year, but I know people on Facebook who persist in posting crackpot memes like this: “It's

The most irritating holiday songs

The holiday spirit fades quickly once stores and broadcasters start blaring tunes that annoy.

Toss Strunk and White. Here is the little book about language you need

There is a book I have been craving for years, and now June Casagrande has written it.

I hear what that dog whistle means

Last week I reposted on Facebook a short guide to code words: “globalist,” “Soros,” “New York values,” and others, all to be translated as “Jew.” How do I

You know the type

I have tried since I was an undergraduate, without much success, to interest others in Randall Jarrell’s witty and epigrammatic academic novel, Pictures from an