« Swing those hips | Main | Tour group »


I was walking down the corridor at Morrill Hall at Michigan State beside one of my professors, who looked gloomy. “What’s up?” I asked. “I’m off to teach ‘Prufrock’ for the twentieth time,” he said. “When are they ever going to figure it out?”

I have in my files at The Sun copies of various in-house editing newsletters going back to 1970, and the same damn things keep turning up over and over. When are they ever going to pay attention?

The Enoch Pratt Free Library has a central library on Cathedral Street and branches throughout the city. We have referred to the building once again as the “central branch.” The central Pratt is not a branch; it is the trunk from which the branches radiate.

This morning we’re informed that police “have no motive or suspect” in a shooting. While we should all be pleased to know that the police do not have a motive for shooting someone, it would be even better to read that they know of no motive in the shooting.

We ran two headlines using the word proactive, which sets some purists’ teeth, including mine, on edge. I’ve had little more success in stamping out the wasted adjective dramatic, which has turned up in references to a dramatic drag race and a dramatic struggle in a bicycle race. If circumstances are genuinely dramatic, the reader will perceive that without coaching; if they are not genuinely dramatic, no piling up of adjectives will make them so. Show, don’t tell, they tell you in writing class, and they are right.

All this pales, unfortunately, in the face of this morning’s solecism, an article in which Voldemort, the villain of the Harry Potter series, is referred to twice as Voldermort — after a correctly spelled first reference. Flagging inconsistent spellings of proper names is one of the few things that the spell-check function is good for. It would have been helpful if someone, writer, assigning editor or copy editor, had used it.

Bad enough to have offended the Dark Lord. Now I have to turn off the lights, lock the office door and hide under the desk until the mob of furious Potterphiles sweeps past.

Posted by John McIntyre at 10:54 AM | | Comments (2)


Before you offend any more fans of Potter (I've only seen a couple of the movies on television and not read the books) remember that they can always cancel your OwlMail. A fate worse than no email, which, while occasionally useful, has no personality.

Well, thanks for not saying the professor "looked gloomily" (like those folks who "feel badly").

Post a comment

(If you haven't left a comment here before, you may need to be approved by the site owner before your comment will appear. Until then, it won't appear on the entry. Thanks for waiting.)

Verification (needed to reduce spam):

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
Baltimore Sun Facebook page

Most Recent Comments
Sign up for FREE local news alerts
Get free Sun alerts sent to your mobile phone.*
Get free Baltimore Sun mobile alerts
Sign up for local news text alerts

Returning user? Update preferences.
Sign up for more Sun text alerts
*Standard message and data rates apply. Click here for Frequently Asked Questions.
Stay connected