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Before you pun, fill out this form

You Don’t Say salutes Steve Merelman, the front-page editor at the News & Observer in Raleigh, N.C., who came up with this inspired form to evaluate puns and wordplay — attached as a .pdf:

Download file

If you do not have a cranky old slotman like me to protect you from yourself, consider using the form on your own on the honor system.

Andy Bechtel at The Editor’s Desk was also impressed.



Posted by John McIntyre at 12:34 PM | | Comments (4)


I never knew, until I read this, that pun is also a verb. I think I'll pun today.

Overheard during an intramural football game at the Comedy Boot Camp: "What do you do now Mister?" "Drop back ten yards and pun sir."

I just got shot down by the slot man and the rest of the desk when I resisted a suggestion for a headline that violated the last requirement on the form, namely that it was wordplay based on a proper name. Not very good wordplay either. Sigh.

The journalisic enthusiasm for adolescent puns on people's names is apparently inexhaustilble.

The most that a responsible copy editor can do is to raise an objection every time.

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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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