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Archive for August, 2010

Copyediting podcast: CONFUSABLES 9—”Use” vs. “Utilize”

Monday, August 30th, 2010

CONFUSABLES 9: “Use” vs. “Utilize”

Are you making a serious mistake by using utilize on your résumé? Copyediting contributing editor Grant Barrett explains. (2 min.)

 

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Copyediting podcast: CONFUSABLES 8—”Reign” vs. “Rein”

Monday, August 23rd, 2010

CONFUSABLES 8: “Reign” vs. “Rein”

Are you reining in a passion? Do you reign over proceedings? Copyediting contributing editor Grant Barrett explains. (1 min.)

 

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Copyediting Tip of the Week: The National Geographic Style Manual

Friday, August 20th, 2010

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bullet-glyph21The National Geographic Style Manual

I was hunting around this week to determine whether the style books on my shelves come to anything like a consensus about whether to hyphenate a term like “copyeditor-turned-politician” or “lemonade stand-cum-psychiatrist’s clinic.”

My first hurdle was in even finding the discussion. My brand-new copy of the 16th edition of The Chicago Manual of Style has neither cum nor turned in its index, even though these terms are frequently misused, and so far I haven’t found them mentioned in the usage section or the hyphenation section. I had similar problems with other works, so I gave up and decided to try Googling the terms. In doing so, I discovered the National Geographic Style Manual, a free online resource that represents the style decisions that the editors of a well-respected magazine with a large circulation have made. Its advice mirrors what I recommend:

As a general rule do not use hyphens in compound nouns containing turned and cum: village turned metropolis, gunsmith turned naturalist, editor cum nuisance.

This was listed under the entry for “hyphen,” which is as good a place as any for it. The nice thing is that the online search function helps you find individual words that an indexer might not have thought to include in a print index, so the location the editors chose for the discussion doesn’t matter much.

The Chicago Manual of Style Online is searchable too, of course, and its interface is far more user-friendly than that of the bare-bones National Geographic work. We have early access to the online subscription version of the 16th edition of the Manual, so I asked Charles Levine, our contributing editor who writes the Technically Speaking column, to check for me. A search on both cum and turned yielded nothing about hyphenation with these terms, unfortunately. Charles did remind me that Bryan Garner discusses cum in Garner’s Modern American Usage and says that expressions with cum are usually hyphenated, but I still prefer the open spelling.Copyediting Tip of the Week square bullet

Please note: The Tip writer (that’s me) will be on vacation through September 6.

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From around the blogosphere

Friday, August 20th, 2010

A few tidbits from the copyediting blogosphere:

Dick Margulis at words / myth / ampers & virgule contemplates how book-publishing has changed in the last 30 years. “Three weeks of work, in the early 1980s, to get from camera-ready pages to proofs ready to send the customer. Instead of the day and a half it takes now.”

Andy Bechtel at The Editor’s Desk shares a tidbit about a fellow who pushed to change “city limits” to “town limits” on 50 signs at the cost of $2000.

Headsup: The Blog exposes the disingenuousness of newspapers insisting that their readers want the trivial voyeuristic reporting like that done about the Casey Anthony trial.

From Words at Work, we were tipped off to the story by Thomas Roger in Salon, who interviewed Jeff Deck about his book The Great Typo Hunt and what it’s like to travel the country correcting found typos. “It’s not the Internet that’s devaluing our appreciation for good spelling and grammar so much as the immediacy that the Internet feeds and bolsters. It would be nice if everyone could somehow find a way to slow down and say, OK, I can wait five more minutes for a news update and that’s not going to decrease my quality of life.”

By the way, there’s a lot of scorn for the book in editing and language circles.

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A new training offer from Copyediting

Tuesday, August 17th, 2010

Many of you have told me you’d like to take more of our audio conferences but have a limited budget. Well, the folks who own Copyediting have a deal for you. They’ve decided to offer access to a big selection of archived audio conferences, many of them presented by yours truly, for a flat fee that’s less than the cost of one current audio conference.

For more details, visit the On-Demand Training pageCopyediting square bullet

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Copyediting Tip of the Week: The Yahoo Style Guide

Tuesday, August 17th, 2010

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bullet-glyph21The Yahoo Style Guide

I’ve been grousing for a very long time now about two big holes that I perceive in the style guide market: a reliable guide to Web style to replace Wired Style, and a guide to style for magazines (so that magazine editors don’t have to choose between Chicago, which is usually overkill for all but scholarly journals, and AP style, which is…underkill, I guess).

Magazines still await their champion, but Yahoo (do not feel, ever, that you must put the exclamation mark on that name) has attempted to step in on behalf of the editors of Web content. You can buy the guide as a book or a digital download (the list price is $21.99; Amazon has it for a third less, and the Kindle price is $9.99).

The substantial Web site that supports the guide gives a sense of its tone and the range of its advice; try its page about commas to get a feel for how it deals with traditional topics (it favors serial commas, but not, apparently, strong copyediting; in the first bullet point, somebody forgot the italics for words qua words). The page about eye tracking shows how it treats a topic that seems unique to this guide. Copyediting Tip of the Week square bullet

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Copyediting podcast: CONFUSABLES 7—”Advisor” vs. “Adviser”

Monday, August 16th, 2010

CONFUSABLES 7: “Advisor” vs. “Adviser”

Which is the right spelling: “Advisor” or “Adviser”? And what does style have to do with it? (2 min.)

 

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Copyediting Tip of the Week: Field of memes

Friday, August 6th, 2010

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bullet-glyph21Field of memes

If you study linguistics, you have to get used to words that end in -eme: phoneme, morpheme, sememe (or seme), which, very roughly defined, are units of sound, form, and meaning.

The entry in The Oxford English Dictionary for the suffix -eme says, “in Linguistics the termination of many names of significant or distinctive units of structure of some kind in the lexicon, grammar, and phonology of languages, e.g., grapheme, lexeme, morpheme, phoneme, sememe, toneme.”

Add to this, I guess, meme—a term coined by Richard Dawkins in his 1975 book The Selfish Gene. Derived from the Greek word mimesis, or ‘imitation’, the term meme, as Dawkins defines it, is “a noun which conveys the idea of a unit of cultural transmission, or a unit of imitation…. Examples of memes are tunes, ideas, catch-phrases, clothes fashions, ways of making pots or of building arches.”

Not being a sociologist, I hadn’t really paid much attention to the concept, or the word for it, until its recent explosion in popular use. It first came to my attention when a friend mentioned an “Internet meme” in an e-mail to me a while back, and I asked what she meant by the word; to her it was a running theme of some kind.

I’d meant to investigate, but then forgot about doing so until I read “When Funny Goes Viral” in the July 18 New York Times. In that article, the following sentence appears: “The department of media, culture and communication at New York University brought in a trio of performers for the main event at its undergraduate conference this winter to give a presentation called MemeFactory, a fast-paced talk with three slide projectors running simultaneously, addressing practically every stupid joke—or Internet meme, to use the common catch-all term—that’s ricocheted across the Web in the past 10 years.”

Now, hold on, I thought: a meme is more than a joke, isn’t it? So I decided to investigate, and it seems that meme is now the buzzword of the moment.

In edited articles, the Times still tends to gloss the term; besides “stupid joke,” I also found “viral online phenomen[on],” and the more helpful “fashionable term for a cultural symbol or idea transmitted virally.” The one that really nailed it (because “virally” seems to limit the sphere of influence to the Internet) was the following: “The meme of the parodies—the cultural kernel of them, the part that’s contagious and transmissible—has proved surprisingly hardy, almost unnervingly so.”

If some of these glosses are more helpful than others, none is inaccurate. But if you look at the way commenters on the Times site are using the word, we can see clearly how, where buzzwords are concerned, simply using them is more important than knowing what they mean. The following are a few of the uses of meme from comments (and one transcript), along with the perfectly serviceable words that I suggest it is supplanting:

For theme:

The “racists crying racism” meme is being pushed hard, on multiple fronts, all centered around the president.

My guess is that some district, somewhere, had a Special Ed Week and it got attached to that meme.
For concept (or perhaps practice):

If the old Reagan meme of voodoo economics of “Trickle Down” is continued, after it has failed for the last 30 years, then we all lose. . . .
For point:

[Much] has been made of the failure of the MSM to represent climate science to the public accurately—can you follow up on that meme Andy?
For repeated assertion (this overlaps with theme):

Mr. Kristof seems to buy into the religious right’s meme that all prostitution is a form of slavery.

Right now the agencies seem to be following Wall Street’s new favorite meme that “runaway government spending” in response to the (brought to you by Wall Street) crisis represents a mortal threat. . .

I’ve seen a peculiar meme surfacing here and there lately—the assertion that people like me are exaggerating how bad our current. . .
And here’s one use that I think reflects what Dawkins intended (from an edited article, not a comment):

The video for “Single Ladies (Put a Ring on It)”—which won song of the year—was an omnipresent visual meme over the last year, echoed in endless fan-made tributes on YouTube.Copyediting Tip of the Week square bullet

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