John McIntyre, whom James Wolcott calls "the Dave Brubeck of the art and craft of copy editing," writes on language, editing, journalism, and other manifestations of human frailty. Comments welcome. Identifying his errors relieves him of the burden of omniscience. Write to firstname.lastname@example.org, befriend at Facebook, or follow at Twitter: @johnemcintyre. Back 2009-2012 at the original site, http://weblogs.baltimoresun.com/news/mcintyre/blog/ and now at www.baltimoresun.com/news/language-blog/.
Friday, November 12, 2010
Also on baltimoresun.com, you can see the resumption of my video jokes, posted on alternate Mondays.
And a new feature, In a Word, presents a new vocabulary word every Monday. Here is a gallery of entries.
Thursday, September 2, 2010
Monday, August 2, 2010
Perhaps less sadly, baltimoresun.com is featuring a "Joke of the Week" every Monday, and I am telling it on alternate weeks. Here is a link to the video for this week's offering, "The Cannibal Reporters":
And if you have not yet been reading this blog in its return to baltimoresun.com, please come on over:
Wednesday, June 23, 2010
Monday, June 21, 2010
Keep up with ostensibly serious posts of You Don't Say now that it has returned to Baltimoresun.com:
Tuesday, May 11, 2010
Monday, May 10, 2010
Saturday, May 8, 2010
The word, Bryan Garner reminds us, used to mean a loud argument that does not quite rise to the pitch of physical violence. Think of the noise in the saloon before the first chair is broken over someone’s head. But American English has extended to include all manner of scuffling and outright fighting, particularly, Mr. Garner notes, in police jargon.
Don’t bother with the barn door; that horse has been gone a long time. Bryan Garner thinks that there is a possibility of limiting altercation to “light roughhousing,” short of the point at which somebody gets killed, but I am not optimistic.
There may, however, be a faint possibility of breaking reporters of the habit. If you can persuade them that altercation sounds pompous, or even prissy, you might just be able to lead them gently to other possibilities, no matter what the cop’s report said.
Two people got into an argument, which heated into a dispute, which grew into a quarrel, which swelled into a fight. And maybe not just a fight, but a scuffle, a set-to, a fracas, a scrap. Who know? Maybe developing into a brawl, a free-for-all, a melee. The language is not short of resources to describe disagreements. Take it out and give it a little exercise.
Friday, May 7, 2010
Thursday, May 6, 2010
Wednesday, May 5, 2010
Tuesday, May 4, 2010
This morning I collected a stack of final examinations and editing projects from my students at Loyola, who will be expecting their grades within the next two days, and this afternoon I attempted to plumb the mysteries of NewsGate, the new editing and production system. It may be a day or two before I regain my footing with the blog.
But make no mistake. Not only am I back on Calvert Street, but I will also be reliably back at You Don’t Say.
Thank you for your many kind remarks since this restoration was announced.
Monday, May 3, 2010
Sunday, May 2, 2010
This kind of advice can be helpful to learners, or writers who want a quick yes–no answer. But it also tends to be simplistic and misleading, failing to reflect the subtlety and complexity with which skilled writers consciously use comma splices. Moreover, when authorities dismiss certain techniques out of hand without mentioning the breadth of their usage in various stylistic and historical contexts, they can perpetuate fear of making mistakes and ignorance of how language works.
Bryan Garner, in A Dictionary of Modern American Usage, summarises as follows: “Most usage authorities accept comma splices when (1) the clauses are short and closely related, (2) there is no danger of a miscue, and (3) the context is informal.”
[C]omma splices are often fine, but they create a noticeably casual effect that is widely considered ill-suited to contexts such as essays, reports, and business writing. They are seldom seen in news reporting except for rare appearances in dialogue, where they can serve to convey an informal speaking tone ... [o]r removed altogether, leaving run-on sentences that lend a breathless, stream-of-consciousness effect. ...
Saturday, May 1, 2010
Friday, April 30, 2010
Thursday, April 29, 2010
A small but vocal subculture has emerged on Twitter of grammar and taste vigilantes who spend their time policing other people’s tweets — celebrities and nobodies alike. These are people who build their own algorithms to sniff out Twitter messages that are distasteful to them — tweets with typos or flawed grammar, or written in ALLCAPS — and then send scolding notes to the offenders. They see themselves as the guardians of an emerging behavior code: Twetiquette.
His switch comes as former state House Speaker Marco Rubio (R) — once considered the longest of shots to defeat the popular governor — has rode [emphasis added] a wave of adoration from conservatives nationally to not only catch but pass Crist in polling.
Wednesday, April 28, 2010
Tuesday, April 27, 2010
Monday, April 26, 2010
Sunday, April 25, 2010
I care not one jot if people write or speak poorly. I sleep soundly at night knowing there ARE rules to follow and y'all can dismiss them at your blue- penciled peril. Contrary to the cant of the "moderate prescriptivists" (really? Is that like using 67% birth control?), the spoken argot does NOT determine the standards for correct written English. If that were the case, this world would sound and read like A Clockwork Orange. The descriptivist apoplectics and apologists out there want it both ways. It's like saying: "Well, this sign doesn't really mean 'Stop'--after all, there aren't any cars in the intersection!..." And those double yellow lines in the road? That's just a guideline--no need to really pay atten--SMASH!
The error of ... viewers with alarm is in assuming that there is enough magic in pedagogy to teach ‘correct’ English to the plain people. There is, in fact, too little; even the fearsome abracadabra of Teachers College, Columbia, will never suffice for the purpose. The plain people will always make their own language, and the best that grammarians can do is to follow after it, haltingly, and often without much insight. Their lives would be more comfortable if they ceased to repine over it, and instead gave it some hard study. It is very amusing, and not a little instructive.
Saturday, April 24, 2010
To Whom it May Concern: If whom is useless, then "between you and I" is OK, right? Wny not let's all just be consistently sloppy, all around? I'm constantly amazed that descriptivist editors weep over their profession's demise, while they simultaneously decry the same rules that make their very existence such a necessity. You can't have it both ways: if you want gatekeepers, you have to put them in charge of the keys. They can't drop the keys down the well and go drinking in the sun, hoping their jobs will still be there when they sober up.
Friday, April 23, 2010
GKP says "whom" is "rarely used these days except after prepositions". Really?
I don't know how to use the various corpora that could be consulted to determine the point, but I for one use bare "whom" quite readily in relative (but not interrogative) clauses. E.g.That woman with long red hair whom we saw at the supermarket this morning, I saw her again this afternoon at the beach.Who did you ask to see, Mr Jones or Miss Smith?
In non-professional writing on the internet the choice between who and whom is made by rolling dice. The distinction is lost except among language aficionados
but I for one use bare "whom" quite readily
And no doubt you will continue to do so while the word drops out of general usage. I know how to use it but generally avoid it so as to not sound excessively posh."Whom" won't be missed. And for a large part of the population is already not missed.