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A moment of personal triumph

The Baltimore Sun

It's the day after American Copy Editors Society's New Orleans conference, the cat has grudgingly conceded that I still live here, and Haydn's Symphony No. 90 is bouncing away in the background. Life is good, and ACES was grand.

So grand that I would like to share some high points of my time in the Crescent City, beginning with a personal triumph.

Pretty much all 350 participants showed up for the stylebook session Friday morning, at which Associated Press Stylebook editors David Minthorn and Darrell Christian touched off the bombshell that AP will cease to use periods when abbreviating United States.

The moment of triumph came when they responded directly to my post "Fix it, AP Stylebook." They rebutted (fellow copy editors will note that I do not write refuted) my points on the split verb entry and italics.

For the former, they said that the split verb entry cautions only against awkward constructions. That I thought disingenuous, because it does not directly address the issue that the split infinitive and split verb superstitions of journalists are without foundation. You could write "don't be awkward" on nearly any entry; they're simply tiptoeing away from a bogus practice that they can't bring themselves to denounce outright. And AP doesn't use italics, or brackets, or accent marks, because they cannot be transmitted to all subscribers. It's merely a technical problem. Or, as @CopyCurmudgeon said, AP does not accept brackets because "it is run on steam power, I think."

The sweet moment, however, came with their announcement that they were persuaded by my argument that the ban on hopefully as a sentence adverb bootless. And so the 2012 editions of the Associated Press Stylebook will contain an entry permitting the use of hopefully as a sentence adverb. Say not the struggle nought availeth.

Somewhat giddy, I was inveigled by the AP's Colleen Newvine into modeling an AP T-shirt. Carol Saller of The Chicago Manual of Style, whom I had the signal pleasure of encountering in person after long electronic correspondence, saw the photo and called me a media whore.*

Another moment of the conference that requires attention occurred at the Friday evening banquet. The insuppressible Roy Peter Clark of the Poynter Institute, the keynote speaker, interrupted intervals of rock and boogie-woogie at the piano to confess that he drawn to copy editors, whom he finds alluring, and adding, "John McIntyre is the sexiest man alive." 

I caution you that copy editors are invariably suspicious of superlatives, and we always question the authority of persons uttering them.

The big events and the merits of the workshops aside, one of the keen pleasures of such a conference is the opportunity for personal exchanges. Carol Saller is person is even more charming than her graceful blog posts at Lingua Franca suggest. I finally met Craig Silverman of the Regret the Error site, who gave a masterly presentation on identifying BS on the Internet. And a large number of readers of these dispatches came up to say how much they continue to enjoy them.

Old Friends as well. I got to exchange views on usage with Bill Walsh (@TheSlot) of The Washington Post, though when he said that he would hyphenate high-school student I was perhaps impulsive in blurting out, "Then you're insane." Beryl Adcock, whom I met during the society's Days of Creation in Chapel Hill in 1997, was there, for her sixteenth national conference. Missy Prebula, whom I had the good fortune to hire for The Sun before The New York Times lured her away, discovered that Sneaky Pete's down the street from the conference hotel had Woodford Reserve in stock. Peter Blair, my former Loyola of Maryland student, now at The Times, appears to be thriving.

And Bill Connolly. When ACES was formed in 1997, William G. Connolly was instrumental in the founding, a midwife to the society, a member of the board since, an unfailing source of wise counsel. I have had the benefit of his advice and support, professionally and personally, and I am merely one in a multitude. One of the sweetest moments of the conference came at the banquet, when, at the presentation of a Lifetime Achievement award, the hundreds of us leapt to our feet in applause. No one has deserved it more.

It would be wrong to leave New Orleans without mentioning the food. It appears to be difficult to get a mediocre meal in New Orleans (except at a conference hotel). I owe a debt that I fear I will never be able to repay to Alex Cruden, late of the Detroit Free Press, who introduced me to the Commander's Palace in the Garden District. The twenty-five-cent martinis! The turtle soup with sherry! And not just there. Lunch with Carol Saller at the Palace Cafe: fried oysters on a slice of ciabatta with a sauce that was apparently produced by sorcery. The seafood and okra gumbo and crab maison at Galatoire's. And, invariably, the coffee with chicory and beignets at the Cafe Du Monde. There are moments in New Orleans when the rest of the nation looks like a food desert.

Most of you have missed it. But there will be a next year, with some of the same personnel and some new faces. Meet us in St. Louis.**


*I own the soft impeachment.

**With that, I promise to make no further allusions to the Sterling-Mills song of 1904.

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