I love Slate’s Explainer column for cocktail-party tidbits and just general clarification on current events and topics. (Recent subjects range from “Why don’t figure skaters get dizzy?” to “Can the Pope be fired?”) This week, on the occasion of the latest AP style changes, it explains how such rulings are made. AP’s Deputy Standards Editor, David Minthorn, also gave some behind-the-scenes scoop in a Q&A on Facebook. (I love the image of copy editors bursting into applause at the official announcement.)
On a related note, I’ve been contemplating subscribing to the online AP Stylebook for a while, and these tidbits may push me over the edge. Since following the Stylebook on Twitter, I’ve noticed it’s more fluid than I tend to think. I’m old-school in that I like the tactile experience of picking up my book and leafing through it, but lately I’ve been on the road a lot and haven’t had it handy when I needed it. It kind of pains me, but I think it’s time.
I was out running errands on Friday afternoon (probably the best perk of freelance work), so I missed the dramatic reveal from the Associated Press that it is officially amending its stylebook in favor of “website” over the antiquated “Web site.” This was one of the first things I blogged about, and I also Tweeted to AP about it in October, so I can happily claim to be part of this little piece of copy editing history. I join Mashable in hoping “email” will be next …
Posted in style
Tagged AP style
Cute story in the New York Times today about how hipsters are dyeing their hair gray on purpose. As someone who’s been trying to cover it up since the age of 19, I’m conflicted about this trend. But anyway, it prompted me to refresh my memory on the spelling of “gray” vs. “grey.” Turns out both Webster’s and AP prefer “gray.” (“Greyhound” is correct, though.) I vastly prefer “grey,” but I guess I’d better practice what I preach over here.
I was so excited to see this obscure grammar rule executed correctly not once but twice in the latest issue of InStyle magazine. The words “blonde” and “brunette” are nouns only, meaning a woman with that particular hair color. A man is a “blond” or “brunet.” But if you’re using the word as an adjective to modify hair, you use the masculine form. “Blondes may have more fun, but I feel sophisticated when I’m sporting brunet locks.” (Note that AP prefers the term “brown-haired” to describe a man.)
I have to give the Garnet Hill catalog props — it has remarkable well-written descriptions (though I’m not sure every item of clothing is as “exceptional” as it claims). But I did find one thing to pick on. Despite the fact that it’s now a well-known term, “best seller” remains two words, not one. So the noun is “best seller,” and accordingly the adjective is hyphenated as “best-selling.” Webster’s also offers that that state of being a best seller is “best-sellerdom” but that looks and sounds a bit convoluted to me. I’d probably rephrase a sentence rather than use it.
Posted in style
Tagged AP style, hyphens
OK, so picking on celebrity Tweets is a little like shooting fish in a barrel, but Giuliana Rancic is not only a reporter — she’s managing editor of E! News and has a master’s degree in journalism. So there’s no excuse for this error. The correct way to write the possessive here is “Tiger Woods’ first interview” or “Tiger Woods’s first interview,” depending on which stylebook you follow. (The former is AP, the latter Chicago.) But “Tiger Wood’s”? Social media is still media, folks!
The headline on this Reuters article, ‘Johnny Cash releasing another posthumous album,’ reminded me of a frequent source of copy editor humor. It’s wonderful that we have words like “posthumous” and “late” to help delicately describe things related to those no longer with us. But there are rules for their usage, which help avoid accidentally funny images like this story’s lead: “More than six years after his death, Johnny Cash will return to record stores next month with a new album featuring one of the last songs the country legend ever wrote.”
Just remember: Dead people can’t take action.* Something can be done to them — i.e. they can receive an award or have a book published posthumously. But they can’t do it themselves. If you’re tempted to use “posthumously” in a sentence, try replacing it with “after he/she died” and see if it makes sense. (I sympathize with the headline writer here, as passive voice isn’t ideal. But there’s no possible explanation for that lead.)
The flip side is that I often see writers incorrectly using the adjective “late” in a sentence describing something that happened while the deceased was still alive, e.g. “It was thrilling to hear the late Christopher Reeve speak at my commencement.” Yes, that would be a sight. But in fact, you saw him speak when he was still alive, so “late” is inappropriate. Often enough, I think it’s probably clear from the context that the person is now dead. But if not, you’ll need to find another way to indicate it. Unless you’re writing Pride & Prejudice & Zombies.