Friday night, as I said last time, was the banquet. Because so many of us editor women have embraced colorful hair, there was a group photo taken before we were seated. Eleven of us assembled in front of the (old) ACES logo sign in the hallway for our moment of fame. The largest discussion focused on whether we should line up in ROYGBIV order. (We did not.) As most of us are purple of some flavor or other, we were in the middle, with the green, blue, orange, and red on the outside. Molly McCowan (@InkbotEditor) has rainbow streaks in her blonde mane, and took center position. (I envy her ink.) Continue reading “ACES 2017: The rest of it”
Book Discussion: Accidence Will Happen, by Oliver Kamm
Right off the bat, let me say that there isn’t a typographical error in the title. I wager most of this blog’s followers know that, but some might not. My college-student stepdaughter winced when she saw my copy of this lying on the table, and said, “That typo on the cover, though.” I set her straight immediately.
Accidence is that portion of grammar that deals with inflection. Inflection is the way a word changes to denote a specific grammatical category. For example: “Sang” is the past tense of “sing.” We know that because it changes form. It changes again for the past participle “sung.” Of course, that’s an irregular form. The same process happens with regular verbs, like talk/talked/talked, but by adding a suffix instead of altering the spelling of the root form. It happens with nouns, too: cat/cats, goose/geese. Now you know, if you didn’t before.
Now that I’ve concluded the brief grammar lesson, on to the discussion. Continue reading “Book Discussion: Accidence Will Happen, by Oliver Kamm”
Grammar Day, 2016
I see I didn’t bother writing anything for last year’s Grammar Day. I was probably busy working. I’m sure I wasn’t writing haiku. (Why would I write haiku, you ask? Because of the annual ACES Grammar Day Haiku contest.)
But, I digress. While pondering what to write for this year, I picked up my copy of Huddleston and Pullum’s A Student’s Introduction to English Grammar (Cambridge 2005) and flipped idly through its pages. Scattered throughout the text (not randomly, of course, but with forethought) are “Prescriptive grammar notes.” If you don’t know what “prescriptive” means, here’s a link to my post about the different types of grammar. I’ll wait while you go read. ::sips coffee:: Continue reading “Grammar Day, 2016”
Musings for Grammar Day 2014
Time was, I taught middle-school English. (Except we called it “language arts” back then.) I drilled my students in the precision of grammar, in the parts of speech, in proper sentence construction, in the fine points of mechanics (where does that question mark go with those quotation marks, anyway?). I did very well with it, too, until we got to prepositions.
I couldn’t for the life of me get the concept of prepositions through their heads. I hadn’t yet learned the trick of “if you can do it to a box, it’s a preposition.” (In the box. On the box. Near the box. Inside the box. Between the boxes. And so on. Except of course that leaves out “for” and “of” because you don’t “do” that “to a box.” You don’t really “do” any of those things “to” a box, come to think of it. But I digress . . .) So, I abandoned grammar and quickly drew up lesson plans about Greek and Roman theatre, so they could unwind by making papier mache masks and cardboard sets.
We never did get back to the prepositions.
Since then, I’ve worked as a technical editor at two companies, as a retail associate and an assistant manager in a women’s specialty shop, as a creative director at what was then the premier role-playing company in the country, as a CNA on a locked Alzheimer’s ward, as a parts inspector, as a shipping clerk, as an assembler in an electronics plant, as a substitute teacher, and as a freelance copy editor. It always was going to come back to editing. Editing is very close to teaching, you see, except you’re working with one student on one project. Even when you have multiple concurrent projects, you’re still working one-on-one with the writers. It’s like tutoring, in that way.
I’ve continued learning as well. I have multiple dictionaries, multiple stylebooks, several usage guides (different from a stylebook, you know), and I read a number of language- and grammar-related blogs. (Not daily, but when I have a moment and want to unwind, or feel the need for some edification or validation. You can find them on the Blog Roll on the home page here.) I’ve gone from being a pretty strict prescriptivist (don’t you dare end a sentence with a preposition in your writing!) to what I term a “pragmatist.” (If you’re writing an informal piece, go right ahead and end that sentence with a preposition. If you’re writing a white paper, you’ll probably want to recast that sentence to avoid it, though; that requires the most formal usage, and you’d do well not to say things like “This was the part of the experiment the mice got the most tired of.”)
What about those split infinitives? Garner devotes a little more than one page to them in the latest edition of Garner’s Modern American Usage. “(S)plit infinitives where they feel natural” is categorized as a Stage 5 shift (“universally adopted except by a few eccentrics”). I could go on, but this post isn’t about split infinitives or Garner; it’s about ME. Split ye infinitives where ye may. ::cough::
And you can start a sentence with a conjunction, too. Sometimes it just makes sense to lead with one. Not always, but sometimes. You can even write in fragments, when you’re writing something informal like a blog post. Even a grammar blog post.
I recently learned the term “dog-whistle editing” from a post over at Copyediting.com. That’s when someone (like I used to be) fixes things that no one but another copy editor is likely to notice, and that don’t really matter except to the most discerning readers. Depending on the requirements of the audience, it might be all right to let some things slide. I’ve always said “Let the audience determine the language” (or words to that effect), meaning “write (and edit) for your audience.” If less formal usage is all right for the purpose, then less stringent copy editing will be all right, too. If the work requires the most formal level of usage, then the editing had better be at the upper level of precision. (And “alright” will never, ever be all right. Just letting you know that.)
Here’s a link, if you want to see for yourselves.
That blog post delineates what I’ve known for quite a while already. Seeing it in print is very gratifying, indeed. I know now that I’m not alone in thinking that I can—no, I should tailor my editing to the job, based on the material and the intended audience.
And I can still keep my own sanity by insisting on maintaining the difference between “convince” and “persuade.” It’s a win-win.
The Debate Continues
No, no. Not that one.
Sometimes other folks can say what I’m thinking more eloquently than I can. This is one of those times. I invite you to click on this link to read a NYT piece in which two grammarians debate which rules to adhere to, and which to let slide.
If I have to choose a label, I find that I can’t. I have elements of both prescriptivism and descriptivism in my grammatical worldview. Apparently that’s not entirely bad.
I can live with that.