Emmy Favilla has been editing and copyediting since her NYU days. She is currently the senior commerce editor at BuzzFeed, where she coauthored the BuzzFeed Style Guide, and is the author of the upcoming book A World Without “Whom” (available in November).
Hi, Emmy! So your book, A World Without “Whom” is the “Essential Guide to Language in the BuzzFeed Age.” Let’s get this question out of the way: why do you hate whom?
Its use just seems a bit antiquated. In casual conversation, we end sentences with prepositions and we rarely use the word whom, and so it often (but not always) sounds unnatural or pretentious when we stumble across it in print or on the web. As I mention in the book, “I see ‘whom’ going the way of ‘shall’—phased out for the most part, and used only to evoke a sense of mocking fanciness.” Also, the worst offense is the incorrect use of whom (e.g., in a sentence like “They were not sure whom would do a better job”), and it’ll just be easier on all of us to bid it adieu.
Do you think descriptivists and prescriptivists alike will be able to enjoy the book? Who is the target reader?
The target reader is really anyone with an interest in words—grammar, usage, linguistics, journalism, the development of new slang, etc.—and anyone who uses the internet and is fascinated by the intersection of language and technology. So I’m hopeful it will appeal to a pretty wide range of readers. I think prescriptivists will disagree with most of what I have to say (sorry not sorry!), but my hope is that they will enjoy and be entertained by it nonetheless.
What do you find satisfying about working with internet media?
I love being able to tweet (both via my personal account @em_dash3 and the BuzzFeed Style Guide’s account @styleguide) and ask the word-nerd community for their thoughts on certain contentious language issues. It’s fun and interesting to challenge established style guidelines and have discussions with smart, linguistically inclined people who are just as eager to geek out about this sort of stuff as you are.
What fortune-cookie-size advice would you give other editors interested in working with an international clientele?
Get familiar with idiomatic expressions and language conventions (of other parts of the English-speaking world).
Read British, Canadian, and Australian English style guides (the Guardian’s style guide is a good place to start for a UK audience) when you can. It’ll save you from making unnecessary edits and being on the receiving end of a scornful message from a writer in London who’s wondered why you felt the need to add the to the sentence “She’s in hospital.”
If you weren’t editing and writing, what would you like to try as a career? What’s a job that fascinates you?
I’m a huge animal lover and advocate, and I’ve done my fair share of volunteering and local rescue work with animals. (I also live with a cat, a dog, and two rabbits—all rescues.) My first job, from ages 16 through 19, was as a receptionist at a vet’s office. Animals are truly my life’s passion—we need to speak for them because they can’t speak for themselves, and they just have so much unconditional love to give—so working full-time with animals in some capacity would be incredibly fulfilling. I’d love to manage an animal shelter or, in a dream world, open a sanctuary for pit bulls (my favorite dog breed) à la Pit Bulls and Parolees.
Find more from Emmy Favilla—including a day in the life of a BuzzFeed editor and how she approached A Word Without “Whom” as an essential guide to the current language landscape—by checking out the interview in the October–November 2017 issue of Copyediting, available for download now!