When I left the copy desk and set up shop in the guest bedroom, Twitter became my virtual office. I’m never a few clicks from my copyediting cohort on Twitter. It provides ongoing education in writing, word usage, and the craft of copyediting. And whiskey.
The prolific commentator Fareed Zakaria is a careless writer. That is a safe statement. To say Zakaria is a plagiarist is a bit more problematic. His past writing is rife with unattributed borrowing, the kind that would get an undergraduate essayist in trouble but maybe not brought before an academic misconduct hearing.
At what point does lazy copy-and-paste writing and sloppy attribution warrant the label plagiarist?
The Associated Press Stylebook sent a summary of recent updates to its online subscribers this week, the first since March. The nine new or updated entries were mostly routine (jack-o’-lantern is so spelled), but there was at least one change of significance:
justify: Smith justified his actions means Smith demonstrated that his actions were right. If the actions are still controversial, say Smith sought to justify his actions.
When I edit for business clients, I rarely see them refer to anything anymore; they reference.
Reference is usually a noun. When it is used as a verb, it traditionally meant to add references. I’ve referenced an article or two in my day, but I never called it that. To reference a scholarly article, by this definition, is not to read it or cite it, but to add citations to it.
The language wars are alive and strong, and Steven Pinker is in the middle of them this week. Pinker, a psychologist and cognitive scientist, wrote The Language Instinct, about the acquisition of language, 20 years ago. Now, he offers advice on what to do with language once you’ve acquired it in The Sense of Style: The Thinking Person’s Guide to Writing in the 21st Century.
It’s a bit late for this election season, but canvass is the act of seeking votes and canvas is a strong cloth, as used in sails or for a canvas bag. The double s version derives from the single s, in a roundabout way.
Ben Zimmer, perhaps the most prolific commentator on the state of our language, is the obvious first choice for the Linguistic Society of America’s new Linguistics Journalism Award. The honor was announced Wednesday.
One of the more common changes I make in copyediting is replacing i.e. with e.g and sometimesthe other way around.
I.e. is the abbreviation for the Latin id est. Id est hardly needs an abbreviated form, but it’s far too late for that battle. It means “that is,” and it’s used to restate a concept, usually in simpler or more expansive terms:
“We started with the charcuterie (i.e., the cold meat and cheese plate).”