Copyeditor Screed

You know what I hate? Prescriptivists. Those are the people who grieve because the Internet is now lowercase. They decry the singular “they,” and probably put two spaces after their periods. (Which, spoiler alert, comes from the days of monospaced font and typewriters.) They sniff at people who begin sentences with “because.” Because that’s what their high school English teachers taught them.

Language changes, and it is my job as a copyeditor to keep up. It is the Chicago Manual of Style’s job to keep up as well. Just because I learned one rule doesn’t mean that it will never go away. We are not engineers after all. Style rules are not scientific laws. Language is dynamic and fuckity like the people who use it.

What do you hate today?

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11 responses to “Copyeditor Screed

  1. The universe (because I’m pretty sure it hates me).

    I read one interpretation of grammar activists that said it was just the imposition of the way the elite class spoke on the rest of us.

    • I think about that a lot in terms of academic English. If I had a penny for every time I said, “Don’t use ‘you’ in a formal paper” I’d be a member of the elite class and wouldn’t need my job as a copyeditor.

  2. At a magazine where I worked (briefly) the editor insisted on using “more than” rather than “over” in phrasing like “we have been friends for over ten years.” NO ONE ELSE IN THE WORLD would know that usage distinction!

  3. I will boldly split my infinitives and verb forms, and I am willing to end a sentence with a preposition. And I will also start sentences with a coordinating conjunction. But I am thrown by some recent structures, such as when my students do this:

    “Majority of people these days think . . . .”

    I mean, don’t we put an article in front of “majority”? I’m not sure that article has truly fallen by the wayside yet. (I am also willing to boldly use cliches in a blog comment.)

    • I too boldly split my infinitives. That’s interesting that your students no longer use articles. My students all say “based off of” and I have to inform them that formal English is an evil plot that has “based on” as the correct way and “based off of” of the informal spoken way just to trip them up.

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