Friday, March 23, 2007

NYTimes Copy Editors Need Copy Editors

I yearned to meet Times copy editors responsible for letting slip by punctuation and sometimes grammar errors. I thought there were not sufficient copy-editors to catch all errors that I see in The Times’s pages. Now I discover that the place swarms with them: 150. After reading the punctuation lucubrations of the army of Times copy editors, I discover that the copy editors need copy editors.

All 150 are to see me in my office after class.

The copy editors’ main flaws are the ones I saw in freshman English classes before I retired: redundant commas and redundant modifiers ensconced in wordiness. Too many commas come from these copy editors’ frail grasp of sentence structure and lagging understanding that we use fewer commas now than in the past. Wordiness comes from redundant modifiers, passive verbs, and indulgence in throat-clearing fillers.

Times copy editors should heed what Wilson Follett says:

“One, the loose or open system, corresponds to the natural pauses in the voice in speaking or in reading aloud; it may be called the oratorical or even rhetorical principle…. The second code of punctuation is the tight, closed, and structural; it depends…on the grammatical--which is to say the logical—relation of the parts (page 417).

“The historical trend for the past three or four hundred years has been away from the rhetorical style of punctuation…. The drive toward lean punctuation is such that even if we still wrote the complex, periodic sentences of Johnson and Macaulay, we should punctuate them much less heavily (page 418).

I come to NY for the Met’s Kirov Ring Cycle in July. Are there tours of the newsroom to see the swarm of copy editors? I will swap a lecture on redundant commas for this treat for a citizen from the outback agog at NY sophisticates—especially those NYT copy editors.

Lee Drury De Cesare
15316 Gulf Boulevard
Madeira Beach, FL 33708

Here follow my interpolations on NYT copy editors’ depredations:

But they also want to be sure that they, and thus you the reader, aren't left with a sense that they've come into the middle of a movie, or that they don't understand how something works, or that…

“The reader” is a nonrestrictive appositive: put a comma after “you.” The redundant comma after movie separates compound adjectival dependent clauses.

to the Newsroom: Director
of Copy Desks Merrill Perlman

Talk to the Newsroom page.

These discussions will continue in future weeks with other Times editors.

What Do Copy Desks Do?

Q. Does your job and that of the other desk copy editors entail substantive editing and rewrite or is it mostly a matter of cleaning up style, grammar, etc.?
— Bill Fischer, Annandale, Va.

A. Thanks for walking into our trap, Bill, and allowing me to explain what our copy editors do.

But they also want to be sure that they, and thus you the reader, Comma after “you”; nonrestrictive appositive aren't left with a sense that they've come into the middle of a movie, Redundant comma splits compound subordinate adjective clauses. or that they don't They are also our final line of protection against libel, unfairness The affectation of omitting the final items-in-a-series comma ranks illogical while newspapers bestrew redundant commas with a hey nonny nonny elsewhere. and imbalance in an article

All of this, I might add, is done under crushing deadlines. Passive verbs seldom add élan to a sentence, and they always add to wordiness: “We edit under crushing deadlines.” For breaking news, a copy editor may have less than an hour to read 1,000 words and do everything the article needs.(It can be even less! Pronoun reference: What does "it" point back to? "Fewer," not "less," if you refer to "words." You can count words. ) We like to get longer articles farther Here's a word that causes agita. The AP uses "farther" to refer to distance; "further" to refer to mean "in addition" to degree. You are safe to observe this distinction. ahead of time, Trailing adverbial clauses are almost always restrictive: no comma. Use commas with adverbial clauses when you move them to the beginning or middle of the sentence and disturb syntax. when we can spend a few hours or even a day to be sure it's perfect, but our goal is to get the information TO you, not keep it FROM Capitals for emphasis are Romper Room. They imply, also, that the reader is not smart enough to infer meaning from standard print. you, so speed is of the essence.

We've got more than 150 copy editors here — in fact, Redundant sentence modifier it's the largest newsroom department — on 14 different copy desks, just Omit redundant adverb. about one desk for every section of the news report.

Those Pesky Possessives

Q. Obviously Redundant adverb we add both an apostrophe and an "s" to indicate show the possessive of singular nouns [of one syllable] (Mary's hair, the desk's top). Obviously Dump redundant adverb. we do this even when the last letter/sound of the noun is an "s" (Bob Jones's hair, a mouse's tail, the bus's engine). The rule: words of one syllable add an apostrophe “s” for the possessive. Why should the plural be different? (the desks' color, the trees' value, the Walshes' favorite restaurant). Are we punctuating them differently because "bus" and "bus's" sound different, but "trees" sounds the same as "trees'"? Always was puzzled by this rule. The rule: Words ending in a “s” add the apostrophe only. Not only does Le Jim puzzle over the plural possessive rule, but he doesn’t know a fragment from a sentence. How did he get a copy-editor job? Being cute when one hasn’t learned the rules is not cute in a copy editor.
— Jim Walsh

A. Let me say first off that Sacrifice this stocking stuffer. I'm not a grammarian. English language is frustratingly Dump redundant adverb. inconsistent. Among other things, Jettison. it's affected by regionalisms, teaching methods (transformational generative grammar, anyone?) and the plain fact Dump. that people use language however they want, No comma: trailing adverbial clause. since there are no laws regulating grammar. This fellow is in the wrong business. There are no laws regulating grammar, but there are rules. They govern the choice use of English at the time we live. (If there were, the first people to be arrested should be those who think an apostrophe and the letter "s" create a plural, No comma: restrictive modifiers in a sign that says Dump. "All Shoe's on Sale.") Should sound govern how the possessive is formed? It does sometimes, but what would you do with the plural possessive of something like "dunces," which sounds the same with or without the apostrophe? Sound is not the test for apostrophes. Morphology is. Even dictionaries don't always agree. Cite an instance when the major dictionaries don’t agree on possessives. So what's a copy editor to do? Stop fulminating and learn the tools of her/his trade. Publications wanting Here’s flouting of the possessive-before-the-gerund rule. It appears in your style book. Times writers ignore it. I have tried to teach the rule to Maureen Dowd, but she is obdurate. to appear consistent in their use of language usually Jettison redundant adverb. follow a style guide that specifies which of the many disputed This throw-up-your-hands gloss exaggerates: there are not “many” disputed rules that start fights on usage panels. grammar and usage rules to follow. Ours is "The New York Times Manual of Style and Usage," This is a book. The rule says it gets italics. There is no excuse to evade this protocol of Standard English since using italics is easy on computers. and it gives some logical guidelines on possessives. It is available through many booksellers, including, Barnes and Noble and Borders Books. Here are some excerpts:

Ordinarily Omit. form a possessive by adding’s to a [singular noun ending in ‘s.”] (the boy's boots; the girl's coat), No comma: trailing adverbial clause even if the noun already ends in an s (The Times's article). If the word ends in two sibilant sounds (ch, j, s, sh, x or z) separated only by a vowel sound, drop the s after the apostrophe (Kansas' climate; Texas' population). But keep the s after the apostrophe when a name ends in a silent sibilant letter (Arkansas's; [One sounds the “s”in this word.] Malraux's). A good test for multisyllabic words that end in an “s” or “z” sound is that you add an apostrophe “s” if you can pronounce the extra syllable with a straight face. “Arkansas’s” sounds whacky, so omit the “s” and add only the apostrophe. If you say “Xerxes’s,” or “Arkansas’s,” people won’t sit by you on the bus.

For most plural words, the possessive form is s' (girls' coats; boys' boots). But for a plural word that does not end in s (women; children), Such irregular plurals survive from Old and Middle English. They are few. the possessive is formed by adding’s (women's; children's). And when a plural is formed with es (on a proper name and a common noun equally), the apostrophe follows that ending: the Joneses' house; the buses' routes; the Mercedeses' doors.

Not everyone agrees that 's is automatically Delete. added after proper names that end in s. Who are the holdouts? Arkansas recently passed resolutions requiring it; luckily, we've agreed all along. I would not pay attention to resolutions passed by Arkansas. Invincible ignorance fills the state. Arkansans are dumber than the noble savages in my home state, Georgia.

The Comma Before the And

Q. Why does The New York Times insist on not using the serial comma? Its absence can often lead to ambiguity or misunderstanding, and without it the rhythm of language is damaged — try reading aloud a few of your serials.

A. Ah, the serial comma. Also known as the Harvard comma (or the Oxford comma in British English).People who abuse punctuation as do these Times copy writers do not get passes on the two fragments in a row. I'm surprised wars haven't been fought over it (or over split infinitives, which also elicit strong opinions). There is give and take on split infinitives. Newspapers’ items-in-a-series omission is green-eyeshade affectation and rebellion against Standard punctuation. You can’t defend the cuffing around of the items-in-a-series rule with logic, so you defend the omission of the needed comma with stale wit. The reader is right when she/he says the omission leads to “ambiguity or misunderstanding.” This punctuation misdemeanor stands in contrast to Times’s bestrewing copy with redundant commas.

See my comment above about the wonders of English and the lack of penalties for changing it. (The capital crime here would be to use the comma incorrectly, Redundant comma cuts off restrictive prepositional phrase. as in "The boy, went into the store," a usage I've been seeing more frequently.)

One use of a comma is as a replacement for "and" or "or," so to use a comma before the last word in a series is to say, for example, "the flag is red and white and and blue." You have made this “and” “and” up from the turmoil of a brain fevered with rebellion against the quirks of the English language that you are too lazy to master.

Again, its use (or lack thereof) is simply Discard. a matter of style, absent authorities' universal agreement, which is most certainly absent. Dump. When people aren't sure of something, they lard a sentence with adverbs to buttress their weak case. Here's what our stylebook says on the matter: Dump.

In general, do not use a comma before and or or in a series: The snow stalled cars, buses and trains. But use a comma in sentences like this to avoid confusion: A martini is made of gin and dry vermouth, and a chilled glass is essential. Here the sensible style-book guys wander astray. The first italicized sentence has items in a series. Standard punctuation puts a comma after “buses.” Newspapers don’t. They relish the attention they get for abusing the rule. The second sentence is nothing to the point. It is a compound sentence that must have a comma before the coordinating conjunction joining two independent clauses. The second clause of the sentence has a compound object of the preposition “of.” A person not actively hallucinating would omit a comma between compound objects of a preposition.

If commas appear within the items of a series, separate the items themselves Leave out. with semicolons. In that case, Jettison. keep even Omit. the final semicolon, before the Omit. and. If you flout the items-in-a-series comma rule, why fold on semicolons? Go whole hog, pray. Abuse semicolons too. The offspring of Yellow Journalism has the barbarous heritage to license total punctuation incivility. Why not go back to the Lascaux caves and draw stick figures?

Most newspapers eschew the serial comma.

“Eschew” ranks too civil a term. Let’s call the practice what it is: Most newspapers piss on the serial comma. That usage may be based in the days when each character was a separate piece of type, and eliminating a comma here and there could save lead, time and space. Bingo! This is the etiology of the missing items-in-a-series comma. “May be” should be “is.” In other words, laziness and refusal to adapt to computer technology lie at the root of this primitive practice. Y’all just like to wallow in substandard punctuation and spout clumsy canards about your motives.

The Ugly Truth?
Q. Of all the stellar New York Times reporters, who turns in the sloppiest copy?
— Rex Bowman, Roanoke, Va.
A. Oh, come now, Rex. You don't really expect me to answer that!
Paddy or Patty? It's Not All the Same
Published: March 6, 2007

Q. I have been biting my tongue quietly for days now (it always happens at this time of year). Can you tell me why so many people in the U.S. erroneously shorten the name of the Irish holiday on March 17? It is, as any Irishman or woman will tell you, St. Paddy's Day, not "Patty's" Day. Paddy is the diminutive of Padraig, the Celtic form of Patrick. Patty is the diminutive of Patricia. Simple enough, yet "Patty" has somehow become more widely established here as the colloquial nickname.

I have just seen the "Patty" spelling in an AP wire story online. I can hardly correct my friends when otherwise authoritative sources are also committing the offense! Would the Times correct an AP wire story that contained this commonly accepted spelling error, before running it on your Web site? This woman taught me something about etiology, but she uses a redundant comma before a restrictive prepositional phrase.

— Hillary Harrow

A. Ms. Harrow: Hmmm. Why, indeed? My best guess (and it is that) Avoid this throat-clearing wordiness. is that it's a corruption that comes from hearing the expression rather than seeing it, or from Don't split a compound prepositional phrase with a redundant comma. people who see "Patrick:” What is the reason for the colon after “Patrick”? without knowing its Celtic history.

I'm stunned to see that this has appeared in The Times, though fewer than half a dozen times in more than 20 years, and most often in the name of an event planned by someone else. (The Times, being more formal, would prefer "St. Patrick's Day" in all but direct quotations.)

I can't speak for other news outlets, but we would certainly Redundant adverb correct that spelling if we had the opportunity. (Many reports from other wire services that are Omit. posted directly to our Web site are not yet copy edited.)

Pruning the Prose

Q. It takes me longer than I would like to prune business communication drafts. A colleague once helped me greatly by incessantly asking me, "What's the fourth-grade version of this?" Now I ask myself.
Is there a brief set of essential copy editing axioms you can impart to those of us doomed to edit our own overindulgence?
— Curt Lieneck

A. Some of our critics might reply that we'd say "What's the postgraduate version of this?" I don't understand this analogy, and I have average intelligence. So you should make it plain or dump it. But it's something we all struggle with — how do we make this clearer and can we make it shorter? 2 sentences; 33 words Here’s a sample edit for this copy editor: “We all struggle to make writing short and clear.” 9 words

Editors are always on the lookout for excise excessive adjectives One would not think so from reading this copy. — "a very pretty red sunset" can become "a glorious sunset," If you indulge in an adjective, make it less banal than “glorious.” Proust, obsessed with the color of sunsets, might say “blood-orange sunset.” which says the same thing, shorter and with more impact. Or excessive prepositional phrases — "the chairman of the board of directors can become "the board chairman" or sometimes even "the chairman" without any loss. Omit. Strunk & White inveighs against redundant modifiers. Graham Greene hated adverbs. His avoiding them made his prose clean and clear.

I suppose it’s too much to ask
The Times, with its male locker-room masthead, to use non-sexist “Chair” instead of “Chairman.” I met Mr. Sulzberger when he appeared at Poynter Institute in St. Petersburg and implored him as shareholder to get another woman on the op-ed page besides Ms. Dowd. He replied that he had already chosen the male nonentity whom he had hired as one of the Y-chromosome journalistic brotherhood according with his sexist comfort level. My guess is that Mr. Sulzberger will go to his grave not knowing where to put commas. Being a dauphin means never having to show intellectual éclat. Any fellow who couldn't see that Judith Miller was a homely, egocentric phony will not smash into the upper reaches of the Stanford Binet.

Some writing coaches tell their charges to find some phrases they love to death, and Redundant comma cutting off a trailing adverbial clause. then kill them, because Omit comma before a trailing adverbial clause. they're probably Redundant adverb deadly when read by other people. Or too much jargon or overly Omit. technical language — I used to use a fossil-fuel-encased carbon-based digitally manipulated data extrusion device with manual deletion function, but now I just Delete redundant adverb. use a pencil. Misplaced modifier: Even if this fellow can’t sacrifice “just,” it goes before “a pencil.”

They Typo? key is to put your brain at the receiving end of the message instead of the transmission end. Putting yourself in your reader's place, a sort of role playing, often Redundant adverb shows the flaws or efficiencies in your own writing. Don't say the same thing twice.

Female v. Woman

Q. How do you stand on the use of female v. woman? (re: Safire's magazine column)
— Victoria Joyce, Beverly Hills, Calif.

A. As a woman, I stand with my male and female colleagues. I loved Bill's column, but he neglected to cite our bible, You have only one bible, so this comma cuts off a restrictive appositive. "The New York Times Manual of Style and Usage." Italicize a book. Here's the stance it takes: Mr. Safire overused commas to a faretheewell. When I complained, he wrote me that he “liked commas.” He has since retired to abuse commas in private life. That he reigned as newsroom intellectual says something about intellectual standards at the NYT.

In references to people, the nouns woman, man, girl and boy are most natural. If a construction unavoidably Dump. warrants male and female, use them as adjectives, not nouns. Avoid affixing male and female to occupational titles (male nurse, female judge) in ways that imply that they “normally” belong to only Redundant adverb one sex. Preferably Omit. write, for example, women on the faculty or men on the faculty.

Note that it uses "sex," not "gender" Comma to enclose the contrasting element for the noun.

Here's the stylebook again:

In general, Omit. gender is the grammatical classification of words as masculine, feminine or neuter comma or semicolon: compound sentence and sex is a characteristic of living things. Use sex in unambiguous Redundant adjective phrases like sex discrimination and single-sex schools. But gender has taken on Omit. new meaning in social and political contexts. Use gender, for example, in idioms like gender gap, Redundant comma separating compound prepositional phrases and in references arising from its use in legislation or other legal documents. Use it, too, when necessary to avoid confusion with physical sex or to avert double meanings. In other words, gender is not to be,well, Omit redundant coy birds-and-bees allusion. confused with sex.
Who says The Times isn't any fun? More junior-high-sex-giggle humor.

A feminist gloss says that “female” swarms with connotations of women’s sexual function and inferiority, hence a loaded term. “Male” does not bear that burden; its aura is macho man, the template for the race. Hovering beneath the terms lurks the assumption that “male” is standard while “female” is pejorative and points to women’s sexual function, the one men are obsessed with. A male is a complete human being; a female is a crippled male good only for sex. See De Beauvoir’s The Second Sex, despite which she changed Sartre’s diapers at the end of his life, during which he had run around on De Beauvoir big time.

The Common Sense Factor

Q. When the stylebook and common sense come into conflict in a story, the copy editor faces a dilemma: Should I forsake consistency in favor of common sense (at the expense of appearing sloppy or unprofessional), or should I heed the proscribed style (at the expense of disorienting readers who are unfamiliar with newspaper style)? It seems to me that The New York Times tends toward the latter — hence the use of apostrophes in decades ( e.g., 1930's) in normal print so as to maintain consistency with all-caps headlines, and the sometimes strange employment of courtesy titles (e.g., "Mr. SquarePants" as a second reference to "SpongeBob SquarePants").

How do you and the rest of the copy-editing staff decide when to deviate from the stylebook in these (and similar) matters? How often is "common sense" victorious over scrupulous adherence? Finally, does The Times's use of an in-house stylebook — rather than the commonly used Associated Press guidelines — affect your willingness to make exceptions? (After all, if you make the rules, it would seem silly to have to break them.)

— Brenton Kenkel, Lexington, Ky.

Q. As Copy Editor, do you often find that rule anxiety obscures a better solution?

The two above are smart questions.
— Warren Barker

I love these kinds of questions, because they Redundant comma cuts off a trailing adverbial clause. speak directly Redundant adverb. to the news judgments that copy editors have to have.

Emerson wrote, "A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds," Redundant comma separates a compound verb. and then added, "With consistency a great soul has simply Emerson could have done without this redundant adverb and improved the music of his sentence. nothing to do." So, too, with a copy editor who believes that rules are rules. Fragment

Without wanting it to sound as if it's the only book I read, Dump. This suggests faux erudition and adds wordiness. let me quote again from “The New York Times Manual of Style and Usage”: Books get italics.

Style rules should be extensive enough to establish the desired system of style, but not so extensive as to inhibit the writer or the editor. The rules should encourage thinking, not discourage it. A single rule might suffice: "The rule of common sense will prevail at all times."

Common sense, in today’s newsroom, Restrictive prepositional phrase: no commas should mean that this book — aside from its guidance about vulgarity and slurs — does not serve as a catalog of bans on words or phrases. Indeed, few notions can curdle the joy of journalism more quickly than the idea that rules outweigh the freshness a writer may infuse into a phrase usually Redundant adverb. considered irregular or shopworn. So if the manual seems to lean on qualifiers like “normally” and “ordinarily,” it is to remind writers and editors that one measure of skill is exceptions, not rules. The problem with this direction from the Style Book guy is that slovenly writers invoke “common sense” as license to abuse punctuation and avoid learning rules. Using a comma where a comma should go and omitting one where it should not go do not curtail creativity. It enhances literacy.

An editor (or writer) who follows the stylebook slavishly will make The Times look silly. Years ago, The Times avoided "fired" to mean someone who lost a job involuntarily, Redundant comma cutting off a trailing adverbial clause. because our dictionary at the time listed it as slang. An editor, faced with an article about the business practice of "last hired, first fired," followed the stylebook (out the window) and made it read "last hired, first dismissed." Doubtless this example pops up every time some writer wants to insert a pungent piece of slang resisted by a prissy editor. That's silly. The Times has been ridiculed for using "Mr. Loaf" as a second reference to Meat Loaf, and we did. In 1991, in a headline, No commas: restrictive prepositional phrase on a review that began "'May I call you Meat?' asks an unctuous interviewer who pops up periodically throughout 'Dead Ringer,' movie gets italics a movie about the travails of being the rock star Meat Loaf," our headline read: "Is He Called Just Plain Meat Compound sentence gets a comma. or Should It Be Mr. Loaf?" “Meat” and “Mr. Loaf” get quotation marks—single within the double here. In other words, we didn't mean it. And dummies missed the wit.

Context will help drive the decision about whether to violate a stylebook "rule." In the feature sections, we're much more Omit.tolerant about allowing contractions, more colloquial expressions and lighter touches than we would tolerate in a serious news story. For example, though our stylebook advises that, Redundant comma: restrictive prepositional phrase in direct quotations, “The writer should, of course, Omit. extraneous syllables like 'um' and may judiciously Redundant stylebook adverb delete false starts,” following that rule would have done serious damage to this exchange that Frank Bruni reported in his Critic’s Notebook This sentence is too long. Why doesn’t “Critic’s Notebook” get standard quotation marks? It qualifies as part of the italicized newspaper. about room service:

Me, standing at the edge of the minuscule kitchen: “What’s happening in there, Kyle?”
Kyle, hunched over one of the gas burners: “Um, I’m sautéing the mushrooms.”
Me, hovering anew about an hour later: “What’s going on now?”
Kyle, less patiently, behind a veil of smoke: “Um, I’m searing the beef.”

One advice to copy editors here is to never use a keyboard until the brain has been engaged.

Don’t be prissy about the split infinitive, but if it isn’t idiomatic, you avoid splitting it in choice English. “Never to use” sounds better and will not offend conservatives on this issue.

As to the frequent question above (and frequently submitted) of why we put apostrophes in decades (the 1960's) and in the plural of some all-capitalized initialisms (DVD’s), the answer is we don't anymore. Phil Corbett, the deputy news editor who is in charge of the stylebook, eliminated those anachronisms last October, with No comma: restrictive adverbial prepositional phrase this comment: How many eons did it take for y’all to make that change? I recall how long “Ms” languished before the NYT fusty usage priesthood admitted it.

Our main reason for using the apostrophe had been to avoid confusion in all-cap heds, but with those heds long since eliminated everywhere but Page One, that rationale is no longer compelling. And the apostrophe annoyed many readers, No comma: the adjective clause is restrictive .who thought we were mistakenly using a possessive form instead of a plural.

We hear you, Redundant comma splits a compound verb. and obey.

Is It Global Warming or Climate Change?

Q. I'm a style geek and environmentalist, so I'm wondering if AP has a preference for "global warming" or "climate change"? Does The Times prefer one over the other? Do any other papers that you're aware of? This “style geek” has stepped in a fragment.

A. For help on this answer, I turned to Andy Revkin from our Science desk, whose reports have been chronicling the debate and environmental effects (or lack thereof). Here's what he wrote in an e-mail message. (And I hope he doesn't mind that I copy hyphenated compound edited his response a bit!)

I've been encouraging people here and elsewhere (in journalism workshops, etc.) to be very Redundant adverb specific depending on what a story is about. If it's about the changing climate, then climate change is the term. "Global warming" has become bad shorthand for "human-caused warming of the global climate." The problem is, the One may omit “that” at the beginning of a subordinate clause if "that" is not the subject of the clause, but she/he doesn’t replace it with a comma. term global warming itself doesn't include a human element. This has led to heaps of persistent confusion both within newsrooms and in the world at large. ...

Bottom line is, Redundant comma replacing “that” writers and desks should be encouraged always Redundant adverb to ask first WHAT IS THE STORY ABOUT? Comic-book all-caps for emphasis are sophomoric. Use standard lower case. If it's on human-caused climate change (or warming), it should say that instead of relying on a stock phrase like "global warming."
What Andy is saying says: Progressive verbs should depict action in progress. In other contexts, they sound hand-wringing. is that there is no such thing as knee-jerk reporting, so there should be no such thing as knee-jerk editing.


Blogger Matt said...

>For breaking news, a copy editor may have less than an hour to read 1,000 words and do everything the article needs.(It can be even less! <

Lee: >Pronoun reference: What does "it" point back to? "Fewer," not "less," if you refer to "words." You can count words.<

Wake up, Lee. The copy editor has less than an hour, not less than 1,000 words. Now you have one fewer thing to worry about!

Lee: >A good test for multisyllabic words that end in an “s” or “z” sound is that you add an apostrophe “s” if you can pronounce the extra syllable with a straight face. “Arkansas’s” sounds whacky, [sic] so omit the “s” and add only the apostrophe. If you say “Xerxes’s,” or “Arkansas’s,” people won’t sit by you on the bus.<

Arkansas does not end in an “s” or “z” sound; so why use it as an example for multisyllabic words that end in an “s” or a “z” sound? (Use a semicolon before “so” when it means “therefore”.) Are you maintaining that the chainsaw's handle sounds whacky? You are dumber than all the residents of Arkansas and Georgia put together.

Lee: > The rule: Words ending in a “s” add the apostrophe only. Not only does Le Jim puzzle over the plural possessive rule …<

The bus’ wheels? The gas’ smell? You and Jim make a great pair.

11:25 PM  
Blogger Matt said...

I apologise to Jim Walsh. Lee had lead me to believe that you were a copyeditor, but now I know that you were asking the copyeditors a question.

Jim, Lee is often mistaken about many things. People seldom point this out to her, and she thinks that she's right all the time. When someone does point out these errors, he or she gets accused of picking on Lee because she's a girl.

11:39 PM  
Blogger twinkobie said...

Pile on, my buckoes. I shall overcome.The person writing the article said that "Arkansas" added an apostrophe "s" by fiat. I inferred the legislature. The quidnunc may or may not have jested. But he sounded serious to me.

You have made up that semicolon advice. Making up rules is against the rules. Cite your source.

Yes, it is "bus's wheel's" and "gas's fumes." Get over it.

As for being dumber than all the people in Georgia and Arkansas, none of us Georgians or Arkansans are as dumb as the brutes who pursued the War of Oppression against us. These smart alecks are all of that ilk. And I send a special rasberry to Matt; his female relatives are probably all frumps in the Civil War women's organization the name of which I can't recall now. May cow dung be rained on Matt's head for his flouting the chivalric code as well as the holy rules of grammar and punctuation. lee

6:13 PM  
Blogger Matt said...

Your weaseling out of “Arkansas” and “bus” is funny!

>You have made up that semicolon advice. Making up rules is against the rules. Cite your source.<

This, from the person who writes “The rule: Words ending in a “s” add the apostrophe only” and backpedals on “bus”. Cite yours; then you get over it!

I trust that you agree with the semicolon before “then”.

Please show some respect for that most elementary of holy rules - spelling - by having another go at "raspberry" for me.

5:41 AM  
Blogger twinkobie said...

You are wrong, Matt. Review your grammar primer on apostrophes. I concede nothing to renegades who make up semicolon rules just to be contrary. Fast and pray with The Chicago Manual of Style under your pillow. lee

8:42 AM  
Blogger Matt said...

Lee: >You are wrong, Matt. Review your grammar primer on apostrophes. <

Strunk & White Chapter 1 Rule 1 page 1:
"Form the possessive singular of nouns by adding 's.
Follow this rule whatever the final consonant. Thus write,
Charles’s friend
Burns’s poems
the witch’s malice"

Arkansas’s is the possessive singular of a noun, as is bus’s and gas’s. No, Lee, you were wrong. What you meant to write was “Plurals ending in “s” add the apostrophe only.” Get over it; you wanted me to do so.

Lee: >I concede nothing to renegades who make up semicolon rules just to be contrary.<

Strunk & White maintains that:
“Note that if the second clause is preceded by an adverb, such as accordingly, besides, then, therefore, or thus, and not by a conjunction, the semicolon is still required.”

I wonder if you have read the little book at all.

Lee: >Fast and pray with The Chicago Manual of Style under your pillow.<

May I quote you, Lee, from this blog?

“This is a book. The rule says it gets italics. There is no excuse to evade this protocol of Standard English since using italics is easy on computers.”

It’s not easy enough for the likes of you. What does the CMOS say about italicising titles?

4:43 AM  
Blogger twinkobie said...

Le churl Le Matt has blathered so much about apostrophes that I want to cut through his fog and remind that if a singular noun ends in an "s" or "z" sound, you add apostrophe "s" for the possessive: "the bus's fumes"; "my cuz's house." If a singular noun ending in an "s" or "z" sound is multisyllabic, you add apostophe "s" if you can pronounce the extra syllable without sounding silly; otherwise add only the apotrophe: "Xerxes army," "Eloise's hat."

Matt is wroth because I am a cute grammar expert, and he is an ugly nattering ninny knowing nothing.

1:33 PM  
Blogger Matt said...

I know that Arkansas doesn't end with an "s" sound; you didn't. You maintained:

“Arkansas’s” sounds whacky, so omit the “s” and add only the apostrophe.


,Xerxes [sic]army,. Thanks for the example on how to use an ,apotrophe,; it's really cleared things up.

I do hope you like the commas I've used when quoting you, you ridiculous bint.

5:50 AM  
Blogger twinkobie said...

What is a "bint"? Is it the same as "quidnunc"? I am deficient in gutter language and am always alert to learn street patois.

"apotrophe,;":This coinage comes from your last fulmination. Is the comma, semicolon pairing a new rule you have discovered? Your fans await enlightenment.

Lady Lee

6:45 AM  
Blogger Matt said...

>"apotrophe,;":This coinage comes from your last fulmination. Is the comma, semicolon pairing a new rule you have discovered? Your fans await enlightenment.<

I need to spell everything out for you, don't I?

"Apotrophe" is one of your alternate ways of spelling "apostrophe". Go back and find it in your post; find also your other alternate spelling of "apostophe".

As I was quoting you, I enclosed your truly original spelling in commas (as you requested) so that you would not feel plagiarised. My fans need await no longer.

You insist that quotes be enclosed by commas, you can't spell "apostrophe", you can't explain a simple rule for using one, and you couldn't be bothered to reach for a dictionary to look up "bint". What did you teach your students for twenty-eight years? Name-calling?

5:52 AM  
Blogger twinkobie said...

Hail and farewell, Matt. You can blather all you like. I won't disturb you. Start a blog of your own. Then you could talk to yourself. ldd

6:34 AM  
Blogger Matt said...

You can't take it, can you, Lee? Do you expect all of your targets to heed your vitriolic unsolicited advice when you are reluctant to take any yourself?

Blather? I'm not the English teacher with twenty-eight years' experience who can't get a simple apostrophe rule correct.

1:44 AM  
Blogger Matt said...

From the Chicago Manual of Style:

6.24 The general rule for the possessive of nouns covers most proper nouns, including most names ending in sibilants:

Kansas's Texas's

(It doesn't mention bus seating arrangements.)

6.25 For names ending in silent s, z, or x the possessive, unlike the plural, can generally be formed in the usual way without suggesting an incorrect pronunciation.

(Do you think Arkansas ends in a silent s?)

Don't quote the CMOS at me until you have an inkling of its contents.

4:21 AM  

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