website stats
When I am Copyeditor General ...: September 2008


Churches will have spellcheck

Remember how I said God would be in the details? Not yet, apparently.

Copyeditor General's ruling: Further down the street fron this church is another that has a sign that reads, "Never place a period where God has placed a comma."

Perhaps a more useful aphorism would be "Never place a sign inviting students to church if you don't know how to spell."


September 24 will be a national holiday

It's National Punctuation Day. Please celebrate responsibly, perhaps with a t-shirt:

or a song:


No one will fraternize with clients

I just happened to be browsing a Web communications job posting on the Tufts University careers site when I noticed this gem:

Copyeditor General's ruling: I'm not quite sure what kind of Web Comms office they're running up at Tufts, but they'd better keep their pants on.


Spellcheck will be reserved for those who can spell

I used a calculator for the first time when I was six years old. This was the mid-'70s; pocket calculators were only just becoming affordable. I thought it was the greatest thing ever, and quickly turned it upside down to spell HELLO. Once I realized it was largely useless as a writing tool (what? You're supposed to use it for numbers? Ewww!) I moved on.

But I was still aware of the criticism that calculators would make people intellectually lazy; children would never learn to add (a vital life-skill, apparently).

And then we all got computers, and now not only do we not need to do math, but we also don't need to get up from the couch to meet people or buy groceries.

We can even stand on virtual street corners like crazy old men and rant endlessly about, say, the state of the English language.

Of course, while I love the efficiencies computers bring, I'm now old enough, and have read enough, to understand those '70s concerns. And I point an accusatory finger at spellcheck.

Why? Taylor Mali explains. (Contains mildly offensive language; you have been warned!)

Copyeditor General's ruling: I couldn't have pat it butter myself. And thanks to the lovely Sarah, who sent me the video and so is anointed Deputy of the Week!

Spelling will not be a political issue

I know you've probably seen this a billion times, but I couldn't resist:

Copyeditor General's ruling: I was hoping for bipartisan agreement on the use of dictionaries. Oh well.


The English will respect English

Point: Ken Smith, a lecturer in Criminology at Bucks New University in England (motto: We've Been a University Since 2007), wrote an op-ed piece for the August 7 Times Higher Education in which he argued that rather than repeatedly correcting students' spelling errors, teachers should accept them as variant spellings.

His reasoning? Most commonly misspelled words are of such ancient provenance that there's no reason for modern audiences to follow blind tradition:

We spell the word "February" the way we do only because it is taken from the Latin word februa, the Roman festival of purification. Similarly, the "correct" spelling of the word "Wednesday" comes from the Old English Wodnes daeg, or Woden's day. But why should we still pay homage today to a pagan god or a Roman festival of purification?

Counterpoint: The same magazine published responses to its annual call for egregious errors made in exams. As reported in The Guardian (oh, the irony!), British students wrote that "control of infectious diseases is very important in case an academic breaks out" and that "flirtation makes water safe to drink."

Copyeditor General's ruling: Sure, I can forgive the occasional typo; I can look the other way when I see uncommon words misspelled. Nobody's perfect, after all.

But when someone who is charged with teaching the next crop of professionals tries to argue that it's okay to half-ass the days of the week or the months of the year--because really, it's not as though you see them in writing very often, is it?--well, then we have a problem.

And if the exam examples are any indication, there's a lot of work to be done.
Add to Technorati Favorites