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When I am Copyeditor General ...: Why Copyeditor General?


Why Copyeditor General?

Recently, someone asked me about the origins of the name of this blog. Why Copyeditor General? Where did it come from?

The urge to correct grammar mistakes and typos has long burned in my veins. I've spent more than 20 years writing and editing. And I've learned that copyeditors don't just take their work home with them: they take their work everywhere. No menu, no store window display, no flyer goes unproofed. It becomes an obsession.

For a while I carried a red pen with me (because you never know where language abuse might occur). But it became increasingly clear that there was only so much correcting a five-foot-three chickie could do.

And then, in 1997, Apple introduced a new ad campaign.

Remember "Think Different"?

It was clever. It was dramatic. It was everywhere. And, of course, it was grammatically incorrect.

Perhaps the campaign's omnipresence offended me the most. When major corporations were flouting basic grammar rules, how were ordinary people supposed to learn (or care about) correct language use?

Every day, as I walked through Kendall Square in Cambridge, I'd pass a billboard with the offending ad. Every day, it made my red-ink-stained fingers twitch. I imagined it was staring down at my helpless street-level frustration and laughing.

And I realized what was needed: the intervention of a higher power.

There should be a government office, I decided, whose role is to correct such large-scale grammar errors.

When I am Copyeditor General, I shall tour the country with an enormous red pen, fixing typos. Like this:

Copyeditor General strikes again!

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