Thursday, April 2, 2015

"WOULD OF"? NO: Things that piss off copy editors.


  1. Watts1:32 PM

    The last couple of semesters I've hosted a "proof your paper" event in our library. It's a shame I'm not allowed to drink on the job.

  2. Watts1:54 PM

    You'll never accept that I love and use the Oxford comma. Get over it, Joe. :)

    I was dealing with more egregious errors like "would of" and homophones or near-homophones that radically altered the meaning of the writing.

    Also, students whose native language (not English) doesn't use articles have a REALLY hard time with it it when writing in English.

  3. Wait, wait. I'm certain that "Impact" is a verb. The difference is in the emphatic syllable, no? IMpact is a verb, imPACT is a noun. Am I missing something here?

  4. bill.4:18 PM

    Wow, the MW Dictionary of English Usage spends almost two pages on impact.

    Impact bothers cranks who learned grammar from other cranks. Using it as a noun in the figurative sense bothers them almost as much as using it as a noun.

    Impact was a verb before it was a noun, though it didn't establish itself as a noun until the 1970s.

    While the verb form isn't often found in literary writing it is otherwise standard and established.

  5. bill.4:20 PM

    Edit: second para, last word should be verb, not noun.

  6. bill.8:59 PM

    I'm partly guilty as I use en dashes and hyphens interchangeably. But if you try to pass off a hyphen instead of an em dash I will cut you.

    To insert it, you only need to remember alt+0151. Why is this so hard? Even though when I do that in the newer version of MS Word it opens up some sort of equation box because Word is dumber than dirt.

  7. Joseph Finn10:28 AM

    Having to remember an alt code to insert punctuation is just one of the issues of Word.

  8. Joseph Finn11:19 AM

    Jordan, this is what I've been saying for years: if you need an Oxford comma, then your sentence should probably be rewritten.

  9. Sometimes you're listing things. And sometimes on of those things is a compound using the word "and." To my eye it looks better with serial commas.

    "He likes ham, turkey and peanut butter and jelly sandwiches"
    "He likes ham, turkey, and peanut butter and jelly sandwiches."

    I could switch things around but it still looks wrong.
    "He likes peanut butter and jelly, turkey and ham sandwiches."
    Does he like sandwiches with both turkey AND ham on them or separate sandwiches that are only turkey OR ham? And it also makes the comma after "peanut butter and jelly" look weird.

    I know I'm wasting my breath because you're intractable on this issue, but I had to try.

  10. Joseph Finn11:54 AM

    My solution for the rewrite would be, "He likes ham, turkey and peanut butter & jelly sandwiches." All hail the ampersand!

  11. An ampersand in formal writing (if it's not part of a brand name or identity)? EWWWWWWW.

  12. Joseph Finn11:58 AM

    Yes & yes!

  13. That's just tacky. Ampersands are for things like burger joints and gas stations.

  14. christy in nyc12:07 PM

    A lot of these—and this might explain the "impact" thing—seem to be wanting to avoid corporate speak, and that thing where people unintentionally pick up these little tics of using a convoluted word choice in places where a simpler choice would sound better. (I think of people who always, when at work, say "reach out to" when they just mean "contact" or "email" or "talk to." It's not wrong, it doesn't even sound bad in isolation, but once you see it start to spread like a catching disease, it changes and starts to sound different than intended).

    And fair enough. I depend on copyeditors not just to tell me when I'm grammatically wrong, but also when something can be improved. Because it's a matter of opinion, it often means I stet a lot, but that's better than the alternative.

    I greatly appreciate the running theme of correcting the bugbears of mistaken pedantry. That's where copyeditors really use their powers for good.

  15. christy in nyc12:16 PM

    It also would still work better with the comma, ampersand notwithstanding. (Nothing personal, non-Oxford people).

  16. ★★★★★

  17. Jordan1:29 PM

    And let's not forget, for the all-the-time Oxford comma people, it can often cause ambiguity. "The people who most inspired my writing were my father, Kurt Vonnegut, and my 11th grad English teacher." Well, my father wasn't Vonnegut, so you've got yourself a problem. Even worse, there's no way to rearrange that sentence to make it true. You have to drop the punctuation.

  18. christy in nyc1:52 PM

    Losing the comma only removes an iota of the ambiguity, unless I'm misunderstanding. Wouldn't the simpler solution be to simply add the word "three" and do whatever you want with the comma?

  19. Jordan2:31 PM

    Orwell's third rule of writing: If it is possible to cut a word out, always cut it out. Same goes for journalistic style guides. As written, you see two people: 1) father/Vonnegut and 2) the English teacher. By removing the comma, you have "my father, KV and my 11th...". Three people. Unless you are saying that it could be read in a clunky way as one person (my father, KV who was also my 11th...), but context already shows multiple characters with people/were instead of person/was.

  20. bill.2:35 PM

    I go with the alt code because it works in all the other non-Microsoft applications I work in. If I was stuck in MS Word hell I'd probably use their keystroke Alt+Ctrl+minus sign. Though most people will have autoformatting changing two hyphens to an em dash.

  21. bill.2:47 PM

    Here's a pet peeve of my own. Our CEO has as a verbal tic the phrase "net net." As in "Net net, the widget making forecast is good." I counted 14 in one hour at the last company Q&A. This is beginning to creep into other usage throughout the company. So "we need 10 net new servers" means the same as needing 10 new servers.

    It's like people can't hear the words coming out of their mouths.

  22. christy in nyc4:13 PM

    It's not an unnecessary word if its presence obviates the need for this conversation. There are many wrong ways the sentence could be read, depending on what order you used for the items, and every possible wrong reading could be avoided with the addition of a single word.

  23. Actually, what "10 net new servers" means as opposed to "10 new servers" is that at the end of the operation, there need to be 10 more servers than there were before -- so if in this process, you're decommissioning 2 servers, you actually would need to purchase and deploy 12.

    ...Of course, if that's not the case, he's wrong.

  24. victoria2:27 PM

    What I do is set up an autocorrect -- I make m- autocorrect to an em dash and n- autocorrect to an en dash.

  25. Except it should be "He likes ham, turkey, and peanut-butter-and-jelly sandwiches."

  26. I'm really late to this party, but: I expected to read this list and be cheering the whole way through (especially given Adam's example in the header, which is terrible), but instead I found a lot of these to be pedantic and even wrong -- much more "don't do things I don't like" than "don't do things that are wrong."

  27. Christy in Philly1:24 PM

    My newest corporate speak annoyance is "I don't have the bandwidth to..."

    Just say you can't. Or you don't want to.