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Don't forget to write

It’s not just odd that people read this blog; some actually write to it. Here are some reader responses from several weeks’ worth, my smartass remarks appended. (Webster’s New World College Dictionary lists both "smartass" and "smart-ass." Don’t bother writing to express a preference.)

Tom writes that "I think the ‘podium’ battle has already been lost ... how many people actually know that the podium is what the lectern stands upon? I'm guessing about 1 out of a thousand."

Then let’s write for the one. The nine hundred and ninety-nine won’t notice.

Tom also recommends his Banned For Life list at


I heartily recommend it. Much, much spleen.

MJM asks, "Since, as you say, ‘an e-mail’ seems to have become accepted, could you address the inevitable outcome: that people then refer to the plural ‘he sent e-mails to the others’ rather than the collective ‘he sent e-mail to the others’? Is ‘e-mails’ also becoming acceptable?"

Once we have swallowed the camel, it’s pointless to strain at the gnat.

Mike Livingston weighed in to say, "I give up on ‘an e-mail,’ but the distinction between ‘accident’ and ‘collision’ is not trivial. ‘Accident’ implies that the event could not have been foreseen or prevented, and that's rarely the case. ‘Collision’ is objective; ‘accident’ is always debatable."

An apt point.

Kate G. asks, "Oh, I *like* ‘sic.’ Does that make me a nerd?"

I’m afraid so.

Lisa complains, "You say ‘nerds’ like it's a bad thing ..."

I was a bookish kid with thick eyeglasses who despised all known forms of sport. I majored in English. I write a blog on English usage and teach copy editing. I have a daughter who is on the point of graduating from Swarthmore with a double major in Latin and Greek. When I use "nerd," I speak with authority.

Posted by John McIntyre at 11:15 AM | | Comments (2)


How about "crash" rather than "accident?"

One last note on the podium vs. lectern issue: I got a chuckle when I came across this sentence in Frank McCourt's book "Teacher Man," in which he is describing his impressions of one of his first professors at New York University, and the whole atmosphere of academia: "I thought it was terrific the way you could stand up there on that little platform with your podium and your desk and talk for an hour with everyone before you making notes . . . " (So, isn't the little platform in fact itself the podium? )

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About John McIntyre
John McIntyre, mild-mannered editor for a great metropolitan newspaper, has fussed over writers’ work, to sporadic expressions of gratitude, for thirty years. He is The Sun’s night content production manager and former head of its copy desk. He also teaches editing at Loyola University Maryland. A former president of the American Copy Editors Society, a native of Kentucky, a graduate of Michigan State and Syracuse, and a moderate prescriptivist, he writes about language, journalism, and arbitrarily chosen topics. If you are inspired by a spirit of contradiction, comment on the posts or write to him at
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