Tuesday, November 30, 2010

What Was Stieg Thinking?

In some blog posts I did a while back shredding Stieg Larsson's prose, I couldn't help but wonder what had gone through his mind and the mind of his editor. Some recently published e-mail exchanges shed some light on this very question.

Excerpted here by the Wall Street Journal, the back-and-forth between Larsson and his editor, Eva Gedin, include two points I find particularly interesting.

First, Larsson knew his prose needed editing. "My texts are usually better after an editor has hacked away at them," he wrote.

Second, his editor seemed to like his pre-editing writing. "I'm pleased to hear that you think the books are well written."


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Monday, November 29, 2010

Apostrophe Song

Why just wring your hands over apostrophe catastrophes when you can SING?

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Tuesday, November 23, 2010

After-party or Afterparty?

Today I edited an article that contained the word “after-party.” The writer’s choice to form a noun from the words “after” and “party” by attaching them with a hyphen seemed logical. But I wasn’t sure it was the best choice.

I checked our designated dictionary, “Webster’s New World.” It does not contain the word “afterparty” (or “after-party,” for that matter). But I still wasn’t satisfied. My thinking: Who says that “after,” in this context, is a word? Can’t it be a prefix?

In the online version of Webster’s, I couldn’t figure out how to find the prefix “after-,” so I checked the hard copy of the dictionary. There it was, the “after-,” which Webster’s said was a “combining form,” (meaning you just splice it right on to the front of whatever word you’re pairing it with).

I was pleased with that answer and made the change, even writing a note in the text to explain it to the section editor. An hour later, the section editor came up to my desk. Long before I edited the piece, she had checked the archives of the publication that I work for and seen that house style demonstrates a clear house preference for the hyphenated form: after-party.

Had I worked just a little bit harder, I'd have gotten it right. Had I been lazier, I'd have gotten it right. But my half-baked efforts were just enough to assure I got it wrong.

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Wednesday, November 17, 2010

I thought beefalo were nuts. Little did I know ...

When I stumbled across the beefalo in the dictionary, I thought it was pretty wild.

I had no idea.

Check out the cama (camel+llama), zebrule (zebra+horse), geep (goat+shee), and coydog (coyotoe+dog) and other aberrations unto nature that Drew M. wrote about a while back.

Thanks for sharing, Drew!

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Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Words I'm Accidentally Looking Up (One in an occasional series on words I stumbled across in the dictionary)


an animal developed by crossing the American buffalo, or bison, with beef
cattle (Webster's New World College Dictionary)

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