More Blog Posts
Featured Topic: Old Words, New Words, Problems Words
Is freshmen binge-watching TV shows the new status quo? In today’s News Roundup.
- “The Freshperson Problem”: Can we come up with a nonsexist alternative to freshman? (Lingua Franca)
- “Word Watch 2013: ‘Binge-Watch’”: On Demand, Netflix, and other digital entertainment services have given us a new way to watch TV and a new word to go with it. (Dictionary.com)
- “What the Romans Did for Us: English Words of Latin Origin”: Latin has bequeathed us many words, including status quo, QED, and ...
Copyeditors rarely need an excuse to hunker down and play with words, but as a major winter storm continues to stalk across the U.S., we’re inviting everyone to stay inside and playing along.
The following doublets game tells a hidden tale. Can you flesh out the story of the eager winter hero whose foray into the storm leads back to warmer and more comfortable adventures?
To solve the doublets puzzle: Use the first clue to answer the first four-letter word. For the remaining words (also four letters each), find the word that fits the clue and can be created by changing only one letter of the previous word. [Difficulty level: Easy to moderate]
Read More »
_______ not warm
When dictionaries, lexicographers and others announce the words that defined 2013, most celebrants consider the twerks, selfies and Thanksgivukkahs—the words that were coined in 2013 or at least rose to prominence in the past year. Merriam-Webster, though, chose the word that saw the biggest increase in look-ups on its its website. That approach might give us a better insight into the human experience of the past year, suggesting not just what was trendy, but what mattered.
Merriam-Webster’s...Read More »
Featured Topic: Copyeditor Training
In today’s News Roundup: Can copyediting be taught? And if so, can anyone learn it? Plus a reading list to get your training started.
- “Is Editing Teachable?”: Rich Adin believes that copyediting has “an air of unteachability about it.” (An American Editor)
- “Failure Is Always an Option”: Meanwhile, John McIntyre believes editing can be taught, but not every student will succeed. (You Don’t Say)
- “Starter Kit for Freelance Editors”: Determined to become a freelance editor, no matter what others say? Our own Adrienne Montgomerie has some...
Some time ago, I was asked which word was preferred as an adjective, optimum or optimal. Optimal seemed to my ear a slightly pretentious variant, but history and usage refused to bear me out on this.
Optimum did come first. It’s a Latin word, but it doesn’t show up in literature until the 19th century, according to the Oxford English Dictionary. The OED’s first reference is 1848, but a search of Google Books yields several early 19th century examples in scientific publications.
Optimal, is simply a different suffix for the same word. It also comes into prominence in English in the 18th century. Both words seem to make the leap from purely scientific use around the turn of the last...Read More »
Featured Topic: Punctuation
In today’s News Roundup, we play the Comma Pokey game: putting commas in and taking them out again. Play along!
- “Say, ‘What’?”: The comma before a quote is “the curtain parting, letting the drama emerge.” (Lingua Franca)
- “Tricky Little Things”: More instances of when to add a comma and went to take it out. (After Deadline)
- “The Period Is Pissed: When Did Our Plainest Punctuation Mark Become So Aggressive?”: The period takes on new meaning in text messaging. Will it spread? (New Republic)
“You have spelled practise inconsistently.” It’s a comment I see from at least one technical reviewer on every textbook I edit.
While it’s not inconsistent, I agree that the Canadian/British distinction between practice and practise is a needless layer of complexity. And, it’s a distinction I need to check every time. I’ve memorized the difference between affect and effect — being primarily a science editor, this comes up a lot — but for practi(c/s)e, I rely on a sticky note on my monitor.
So, given a fresh client with no house style, I wondered if I should take the opportunity to simplify. I ventured to ask my colleagues online if I would be excommunicated for making such a call…
Release the hounds!
It turns out that Canadian editors DO have strong feelings...Read More »
Writers are attracted to foreign words on the assumption that they bring a certain cachet to a piece of writing, but using obscure words with unfamiliar orthography can lead to trouble.
Cache is French in origin but it’s been a part of English since the 18th century. Its origin leads us to mistakenly assume it’s pronounced with two syllables rather one, rhyming with cash or stash. That leads to confusion with cachet, which means prestige, status, gravitas.
A cache is a hiding place or a hidden collection of something, usually drugs or weapons, but not necessarily. Someone might have a cache of something, but a person of status has cachet.
Some recent...Read More »
Featured Topic: Style
In today’s News Roundup: the subtleties of language via text messaging, a different view of and also, and the keeper of GPO style.
- “The Import of All Caps”: All caps moves beyond yelling to more subtle meanings. (Lingua Franca)
- “New Questions and Answers”: And also isn’t always something to edit. (The Chicago Manual of Style)
- “Meet the Captain of Congressional Grammar, Punctuation and Style”: If you have a question about GPO style, Mike Abramson is your man. (Roll Call)
Training never ends for copyeditors; every manuscript has something to teach us. Yet we should regularly take time to review and improve our editing and business skills.
Throughout 2013, I reviewed a number of books in this column that copyeditors can benefit from. Start the new year right by working to be a better editor with my favorite books from this year:
- “Business Planning for Editorial Freelancers.” If your New Year’s resolution is to start an editorial services business, be sure to read Louise Hornby’s book first.