Friday, June 25, 2010

Copy Edit du Jour

Two major aspects of the infrastructure revitalization will include revamping education and healthcare systems.

Changed to:

The education and healthcare systems will be revamped.

In the last couple years, I've come to despise structures that say an "aspect" of something is something else: "One fun aspect of the day camp is getting to catch your own fish."

Why not just make the main clause a simple human subject+real action structure? "Kids get to catch their own fish."

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Monday, June 21, 2010

The Worst Phrase I Never Fixed

Came across this in my copy editing today:

"Taking a leading role in putting a fresh face on this world-famous celebrity mecca ..."

Of the first six words, three are "ing" forms. Yuck, yuck, and yuck. And the utter hollowness of "taking a role in putting" deeply offends my editing sensibilities.

I thought about just chopping off the first five words and starting with "putting." That would make a better sentence, but it would also change the writer's meaning.

So, taking a leading role in holding my nose, I left the phrase untouched.

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Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Copy Edit du Jour

After a few less-then memorable dates ...

changed to:

After a few less-than-memorable dates

Whenever I see a "then" in place of "than," I like to give the writer the benefit of the doubt. If that makes me a chump, so be it.

The hyphenation is even more interesting: Writer made a compound to modify a modifier (memorable) instead of uniting them to modify the noun. Interesting choice, but, as everyone knows we copy editors are drunk with our own power, I changed it.

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Friday, June 11, 2010

Words I'm Looking Up (One in an occasional, cleverly named series on words I'm looking up)


Learning a foreign language is always trying. But learning from speakers of a foreign language that you're deficient in your own language is truly frustrating.

I recently began listening to Italian language lessons in my car. (It's part of my "stop saying we're going to Italy someday and just go, dammit" campaign, which has been dragging on for quite some time and will likely continue through at least the summer of 2011.) In one audio lesson, the sample dialogue had two Italian speakers listing toppings they wanted on their pizza: " ... funghi, capperi, rucola ..."

Then they translated into English. I already knew that funghi would be mushrooms. I wasn't surprised to hear that capperi meant capers. I was anticipating the last word to be arugula, but it wasn't. I couldn't make out what they were saying. It sounded like "ararahkt." So I looked it up online and saw that rucola in English means -- rocket.


Turns out it's a synonym for arugula.

So to learn an Italian word I had to learn an English word. That's a long way to go just to order a pizza.

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Thursday, June 10, 2010

What If She Really Meant 'Nerve Recking'?

A story I'm editing says that weddings "can be nerve wrecking."

I figure the writer probably meant "nerve-racking," which I couldn't remember how to spell.

I thought it was "nerve-wracking," with "wrack" meaning "to torture."

But both dictionaries I checked prefer "nerve-racking," the the verb "rack" meaning "to trouble, torment or afflict."

It's one of those things I've learned, forgotten, and relearned who-knows-how-many times over the years.

So, while it's possible that the writer quite deliberately used "wreck," I couldn't let all that good research go to waste, now could I?

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Wednesday, June 9, 2010

What's the Plural of Chili?

I came across "chilis" in a document I was editing today and did a double-take. I could not, for the life of me, remember how it's usually written. So I looked it up.

Webster's New World says the preferred plural of chili is chilies, but also allows chilis.

And now, after a few minutes of staring at them, they all look wrong to me ...

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Friday, June 4, 2010

Copy Edit du Jour

The band has sold more than 20 million records and scored 12 American Top 40 hits during its career.

... changed to ...

The band has sold more than 20 million records and scored 12 American Top 40 hits.

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Thursday, June 3, 2010

And, Yes, You Can Start a Sentence With 'And'

One of the students in my online copy editing course was taught -- straight out -- that it's wrong to start a sentence with "and." Whenever she did, a high-school teacher would say, "That's not right, dear." Several other students were under the same impression.

Who ARE these teachers who spread this stuff and why don't/didn't they ever check their own facts?

The Chicago Manual of Style, Garner's Modern American Usage, Fowler's New English Usage, the American Heritage Dictionary, and the simple logic of grammar and idiom all say it's fine to start a sentence with "and" (or "but" or "so"). I don't know of any real authority that disagrees.

It's a shame how powerful misinformation can be.

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