With the holidays fast approaching, you might find that you still need a gift for your favorite copyeditor—yourself! Give yourself the gift of new skills with one of these favorite books from my 2014 review list.
I just finished reading Steven Pinker’s new book, The Sense of Style: The Thinking Person’s Guide to Writing in the 21st Century, and here’s the crux of what I want to tell you about it: Go buy this book!
In my copyediting class, we’ve been talking about the Typographic Oath, a list of 10 commandments I wrote to guide copyeditors in their work. My students are enthusiastic about it (think of that what you will), but the first rule—“Do no harm”—worries them.
During last week’s audio conference on web editing, I discussed the F-shaped reading pattern users have when reading webpages. One participant wanted to know if this pattern held true for mobile devices as well. I hadn’t explored that avenue in preparing for the presentation, so I didn’t have a good answer.
Now I do, but I’m not sure anyone will like it: I don’t know. Still, there’s some information out there that copyeditors can make use of.
Subject-verb agreement is a notoriously tricky problem. As Geoffrey Pullum, a professor of linguistics at the University of Edinburgh, pointed out in a Lingua Franca blog post, it’s easy to say that verbs should agree with their subjects, but it’s a lot harder to draw up a foolproof list of rules that one can follow to ensure grammatical agreement. There are simply too many gray areas and exceptions to the rules.