After a long dry spell of books to review, I now have a stack on my desk wanting my attention. In an effort to review books for you before they hit the remainder bin at your local bookstore, this week’s Tip covers two dictionary-style books: The Right Word and The Oxford Dictionary of Journalism.
By education and career choice, I am a moderate prescriptivist (with descriptivist sympathies).* In my personal communication, I carefully “couldn’t care less” and I enjoy the game of keeping fewer and less in distinct count and non-count realms. In my professional life, I edit or query any nonstandard usage. It’s part of what my clients pay me to do. So I was surprised to realize that I had, for the first time, used literally to describe something that wasn’t literal -- and that I was okay with it.
Has the humidex got you reaching for a pop, dockside at the camp? You might be Canadian. That’s right, according to Only in Canada, You Say, these are uniquely Canadian terms. Katherine Barber, “Canada’s word lady,” wrote that book. She used to supervise development of the Canadian Oxford Dictionary, when it was still under production.
Every profession has its hazards, some more serious than others. Professional drivers know that if they drive too long, they risk falling asleep at the wheel and causing an accident.
Last week, a few examples of the hazards of being a professional copyeditor were on display. I don’t mean there were copyeditors charged with vandalizing public signs. Instead, there were cases of editors missing the forest for the trees and of editors judging harshly without thinking or researching.
This semester I’ve been teaching Copyediting II in an online certificate program. The middle of three core courses, Copyediting II focuses on what Amy Einsohn calls language editing—grammar, usage, syntax, and diction. During the lesson on parallelism, one student asked about when copyeditors should edit for parallelism. “What criteria require restructuring the whole sentence?” she asked.