One of the signs of maturity in an editor is the realization that she imposes different sets of “rules” depending on the client’s preference. There are few indisputable rules, the editor realizes, as she is exposed to more and more sets of preferences.
Yesterday I blogged about the that/which distinction being a choice rather than a hard-and-fast rule. A judge emailed me directly to say that “folks whose readers depend on precision (as do those in my field) ignore the rule at their peril.” It’s hard to take issue with a group who focuses on language as much as we do. Though lawyers may want to structure their writing so that meaning doesn’t hinge on defining a single word—or on a “rule” that is not universally observed even within their own jurisdiction.
In the #GrammarChat for National Grammar Day, special guest June Casagrande said
"That/which" is more a style convention than a grammar rule #grammarchat
— June Casagrande (@JuneCasagrande) March 4, 2014
Several people in the chat said that they apply different rules depending on client. There; the mature editors who know that satisfying the client is key, not adherence to some Platonic ideal. Canadian editors continually balance this line between “Canadian practise” and “pleasing US readers.”
The latest issue of Copyediting Newsletter contains a couple related items. Daniel Sasnoski gives advice on how to “familiarize yourself with hotly contested areas of usage and places where you’ll have to make deliberate judgment calls.” And a handful of tools you can use to fight the zombies are given by Erin Brenner in this month’s “In Depth” column.
Hopefully, [sic] next week’s Judgment Calls seminar via Copyediting.com will offer even more solutions. John McIntyre promises to explain how “to make informed and appropriate editorial decisions.” And that is what we all aim for.