Friday, May 30, 2014

How to Be a Good Recruit/Tryout/Intern/Newbie

Believe it or not, there is new content on The Slot! In How to Be a Good Newbie, I present 20 questions for anyone trying to get hired as a copy editor — or already hired and trying to make a good impression.

A lot of these are questions you'll have to ask, but some of them you had better be able to figure out yourself.

Monday, May 26, 2014

A Couple of Interviews

Nothing better to do? You could always see what I had to say to Grammarist and 2paragraphs

Wednesday, April 02, 2014

So Far

Since August 2013, I've been doing a monthly chat on ICYMI, here's an archive:

Have "vanished" and "disappeared" gone missing?

[T]his [w]ill [n]ot [s]tand.

Is it "get off my lawn"? Get-off-my-lawn? Getoffmylawn?

About the the, if not The The.

The data is (are?) in on mistresses..

"Over" vs. "more than," and a little mojibake.

It's Grammar Day! We lay, and we lie.

After Superb Owl Sunday, we tackle the singular "they."

A capital idea about logo-philia.

In which I rant about "Black Friday."

Nov. 5, 2013
A modest proposal for the National Natural Resources Defense Council.

If I'm going to be miked, it sure as heck won't be with a "mic."

The first in a series, literally.

Monday, March 31, 2014


Ben Zimmer's informative Visual Thesaurus post on the NCAA men's basketball tournament and its "brackets" and other lingo reminded me of the much less useful post of peeves I've had in mind for some time. 

If you're inferring that the subject makes me a bit crotchety because I simply don't like basketball, well, you may have a point. But I do pay attention to my alma mater's exploits in the tournament. The photo above is from the Arizona Daily Star -- that would be the riot that followed my Wildcats' one-point overtime defeat the other day. (And I'm not at all bitter that, after years of loyally picking Arizona to win, I forgot to enter a pool in 1997, the year the Cats actually did win.)

Anyway, here are some things that irk me about what we talk about when we talk about March Madness:

1. "Brackets" are not unique to this event. It's a draw sheet. Every single-elimination tournament has one.

2. The infantile alliteration. March Madness. Final Four. Elite Eight. Sweet Sixteen. Thirsty Thirty-Two? Sardonic Sixty-Four? Oh, and let's not forget Selection Sunday. Selection Sunday? (I prefer Secretarial Saturday Sponsored by Staples, but then again I'm a sucker for office supplies.)

3. Final Four! Final Four! Translation: "It's the semifinals! The SEMIS, I tell you!"

4. The "regions" are not regions, unless some sort of seismic activity shifted Albany to the South since I last looked. 

5. The not-regions "regions" confuse things. Tell me what round it is, not what round of a meaningless sub-round. If the regions have nothing to do with regions, and each so-called region produces not an actual winner but rather a semifinalist, how much more confusing and/or meaningless can you get than "regional quarterfinals"?

6. A caveat: While the "regions" present me with a math problem in lieu of actual informatiion, at least the infantile alliteration tells me where things stand.

UPDATE (can't believe I forgot this)

7. You get only one No. 1 seed, unless the "regionals" are separate tournaments. The regionals are neither regionals nor separate tournaments (see No. 4). Therefore, the best No. 1 seed is No. 1, the second-best is No. 2, and so on.

Friday, September 20, 2013

At Least My Shoes Are Oxfords

In what I can only assume was an exaggerated-for-comic-effect piece on Slate, David Haglund bemoans the lack of an Oxford comma, a.k.a. serial comma, in Earth, Wind & Fire and Crosby, Stills and Nash and the like.

With a straighter face, he asserts that "right-thinking usage nerds everywhere" dutifully use that comma. Red, white, and blue, not red, white and blue. Well, I'm as right-thinking a usage nerd as you'll meet, if I do say so myself, and although I'll concede I'm in the minority, I just don't care much about serial commas one way or the other. Neither do my right-thinking-usage-nerd friends Merrill Perlman and John McIntyre.

I've spent my career in newspapers, which generally omit the serial comma, and perhaps that's why I lean slightly in that direction even when I'm off the clock.

Fans of the serial comma will point to comical examples such as "my parents, Ayn Rand and God" to demonstrate how its absence can create ambiguity. But, as many before me have pointed out, you can just as easily come up with an example of the comma's presence creating ambiguity. Think of "my mother, Ayn Rand, and God."

Fans of the serial comma will say "Crosby, Stills and Nash" inappropriately pairs Stills with Nash while leaving Crosby isolated, as if he's in prison or something. I would counter that "Crosby, Stills, and Nash played last night" carries a whiff of Nash alone playing. I'm mentioning Crosby for some reason, I'm mentioning Stills for some reason, and then, in an unrelated matter, I'm informing you that Nash played last night.

Yes, I'm reaching. But so are the Oxfordian serialists and their divine libertarian parents.

Oh, and there is an asterisk. There's always an asterisk. Even the anti-serial-comma Associated Press Stylebook uses serial commas in series that contain at least one embedded conjunction. You should, too. She worked for the departments of State, Labor, and Health and Human Services. AP also reserves the right to use a serial comma when sentences get complex, and that's also a good idea. If each clause in a series could stand alone as its own sentence, use that comma: I've worked at this place for 20 years now, I'm tired of it, and I'm going to quit.